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3 Things to Look for When Looking for Law Office Space

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 29, 2016 6:00 AM

Location, location, location. If only it were so simple.

You could ask Siri or Google to find your new law office space. Unfortunately, your virtual assistant might lead you to an office supply or office furniture store or some other non-starter. Until artificial intelligence can read minds, you likely will need to keep some practical and legal things in mind when searching for the right office space.

Think People, Not Places

Unlike the mantra for real estate agents and property location, lawyers must consider primarily the people they will invite to their new office space. This includes co-workers, colleagues, and clients. New client opportunities are paramount, but employees and other attorneys should be part of the search criteria. This is true even for solo practitioners, who are half of the practicing lawyers in the United States.

Coworking is an attractive option for the solo lawyer ready to move on from home-based operations, but not ready for the expense of setting up an office in town. In the coworking arrangement, independent attorneys may share office space and expenses.

The Ethics Part of the Environment

The American Bar Association has an article for that: the ethics of office-sharing. It warns attorneys against the appearance of a partnership, avoiding conflicts of interests, and keeping client confidentiality. It also says office-sharing agreements should be in writing.

At a minimum, the agreement should address:

  1. The terms of the intended occupation.
  2. The definition of the space to be occupied and the common areas to be shared.
  3. A strict prohibition against any attorney representing that the attorneys in the shared space practice as a single law firm.
  4. A requirement that the attorneys maintain a certain level of professional liability insurance and business office coverage.

You Might Need a Water Cooler

Outside the office box, you should also consider practical challenges for clients and others -- like parking and expandability. And in an age when more people are working remotely, don't forget a place to talk to people in person.

"It turns out that an office is a really wonderful piece of technology," said Todd Smithline, founder of Smithline PC. "You can immediately see who is around. You can check in on how people are doing and share in camaraderie in a very natural way."

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