November 16, 2017
Over the years, I’ve posted quite a bit about non-traditional office space options like co-working, on demand space and even hybrid vacation/work space. Although any one of these alternatives are suitable for lawyers, none of them are designed exclusively for lawyers.
But increasingly, co-working spaces for lawyers have been cropping up all over the country. The notion of shared offices space isn’t new per se – a 2007 ABA Journal piece on “million dollar solos” featured Florida lawyer Cheney Mason who described how he took out a long term lease in an office building, leased the space to other solos and small firms who were able to bounce ideas off each other and exchange referrals. Today’s co-working spaces employ that same principle – one of the first, Law Firm Suites touts its client referrals as one of the benefits of the space, even suggesting that added income from referrals can “take the sting out of writing the rent check.” Other spaces have their own USP’s. Venue in Dallas has membership requirements – 5 years in practice and two references, though it reserves ten spots for associate members with less than 5 years of practice. Docket in Western Massachusetts will target criminal defense and assigned lawyers who are required to have an address in Springfield. And LawBank in Denver, which just opened a second space is capitalizing on the surge of local interest in co-working spaces. Not only do these spaces include amenities that are important to lawyers, such as private conference rooms and call rooms, but they also offer iCLE and other speaking events as part of the cost of rent. Indeed, they may eventually replace many of the benefits offered by bar associations.
Even large law firms are moving away from the corner office model in favor of open work spaces with alcoves and common areas for collaboration. Big law firm Reed Smith recently adopted a practice much like co-working known as “hotelling” in its Falls Church, VA and San Francisco offices, where lawyers sit at changeable temporary work desks. The firm decided on this model after metrics showed office occupancy down on Mondays, Fridays and holidays – leaving enough open space to accommodate all lawyers on a revolving basis.
For cash-strapped lawyers starting out, co-working spaces — whether lawyer-specific or not — are a godsend, giving lawyers a professional address and a place to work out of the house without the costs associated with a traditional office such as higher rent, a long-term lease and furniture and equipment. Moreover, lawyers can use the space to meet with clients, host events and build relationships with other tenants. Coworking space can also give more experienced lawyers a way to expand their reach by opening satellite offices in different jurisdictions.
Have you ever worked in a co-working space, and if yes, what’s your experience been like?