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Coworking Space for Lawyers: A Viable Option?

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 11, 2016 1:10 PM

Coworking space simply sounds nice, whether or not its a viable option. It brings a more communal working environment, possibly more perks of free food, a startup-like vibe, etc.

Now lawyers are thinking of getting in on this whole coworking thing. Well, we hate to be the bringers of bad news, but it looks like lawyers will have to sit this one out.

What Is a Coworking Space?

Coworking space is a shared work environment. You share the space with individuals from other companies or firms. Monthly rent guarantees you a communal table or desk, wifi, document shredding, and a very optimistic environment.

At its most basic, a coworking space is essentially nothing more than an empty floor with the barest additional amenities. Aside from possibly a few separate offices, most of the office will have large desks on which to put your computers and other devices.

Coworking spaces didn't really become a movement up until around the year 2000, when spaces and rents started skyrocketing, particularly in areas where tech industries were concentrated. Most of the companies that utilize the coworking space are young, tech startups -- and the environment usually involves a lot of chatting, horsing around, and generally not working.

Lawyers and Coworking Spaces

And therein lies the problem. The nature of creative work and programming might lend itself to a little bit of horseplay, but the practice of law -- particularly the more mundane aspects -- generally require concentration. If you are a lawyer and you need to put down very specific details into your motion, the last thing you need, is someone distracting you from your work. It doesn't matter what kind of distraction you're talking about. In fact, pleasant distraction can be even worse because you'll never want to finish your work.

Competition on the High Seas

Then there's the possibility of being within arm's reach of another competing lawyer. Imagine if a client comes in to see you, and all of the sudden the other attorney is angling for your client with a lower price on her desired services. That's going to be an issue.

Confidentiality

And then there's the biggest thing of all. Even though coworking spaces oftentimes have dedicated rooms, there's really no guarantee that it'll be available to you at any time you're going to need it. The business of apps, web-design, and programming is different than the business of law. One ethically requires privacy while the other does not. If you think you can carry on a private conversation with about a dozen other people around you laughing and joking, think again. As an attorney, you'll need constant access to a separate room.

Appearances

We couldn't end this debate without at least mentioning the appearance of practicing law amongst a sea of peoples. Your younger clients might not have a problem with it, but very few older clients will want to have anything to do with your firm. Unfortunately, appearances count for a lot. A good example is the fact that many staid law firms still keep tomes of WestLaw books and other court cases on their shelves despite the fact that no-one uses them and gets all their law off of a computer these days.

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