Coworking Advantages for Freelance Attorneys and Solo Practitioners
By Logan Sossman Esq.
Technology and seismic changes to the business of law have led to the rise of the Solo Practitioner and, in the past few years, freelance attorneys. Indeed, according to recent statistics about half of the private practice attorneys are Solo Practitioners. While there are no hard statistics on freelance attorneys, the proliferation of freelance attorney work sites and services is compelling anecdotal evidence of their growing popularity. For example, places like eLawyer, The Lawyer, and The Law Society are just a few of sites to find freelance jobs in law.
What exactly is a freelance attorney? There remains considerable confusion even in legal circles. To clarify, a freelance attorney is an experienced attorney who is hired directly by another attorney to work on a specific component of a case or transaction. As independent contractors, freelance attorneys build their own freelance law practices and are responsible for setting their own hours, finding their own clients, and bringing in their own income. (Not to be confused with contract attorneys who are employed by a legal services agency to work on large-scale projects for an hourly wage paid by the agency.) Solo Practitioners, while they share similarities to the freelance attorney business model, work their own cases, i.e. work directly for the client, not for the client’s attorney.
Essentially, freelance attorneys and Solo Practitioners are akin to solopreneurs and, thus, share require similar support services and workspace.
Coworking as a Workspace Solution for Attorneys
Most think of home-based attorneys when they think of Solo Practitioners or freelancers. But do you have an office? Is a frequent question posed to these attorneys and a home office is still, even in today’s gig economy, viewed askance when it comes to the legal profession. Yes, your home is always an option, but apart from the prejudice that comes from being a home-based attorney, it comes with many inherent drawbacks. Lack of professional meeting space, distractions (especially if you have children and/or pets), proper business address, technology upkeep and limits on your ability to scale as needed to name a few.
Coworking spaces are shared working spaces that have been created to allow entrepreneurs, Solo Practitioners, freelancers, start-ups, and professionals a place to work without many of the overhead expenses associated with traditional office space. To attorneys, they offer the comfort of a private office, the flexibility of short term membership instead of a lease, and the benefit of surrounding professional community.
There is much to recommend coworking as a viable solution for attorneys, namely:
1. It may be financially beneficial to your practice.
What? How can that be? Well, working alongside others not only mitigates the isolation of solo practice but offers demonstrated financial benefits: bar studies show that lawyers in shared space earn more than lawyers who work from home or in stand-alone offices. A quartet of surveys on the economics of law practice from Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan and Ohio compared the incomes of solo practitioners in (a) either home-based offices or independent offices outside the home and (b) shared space arrangements. In Michigan and Wisconsin, the surveys found that solo practitioners who shared space earned at least 30% more than their counterparts in either a home office or independent space. Similar numbers were found in Ohio and Colorado. We have provided links to the publically available studies from Michigan and Ohio. Yes, it is a narrow sample, but read on to see how this might be true across the country.
2. Coworking is actually affordable.
Coworking is more affordable than traditional full-time office space or many corporate office arrangements and thus enables newer or cash-strapped solos and freelancers to enjoy the benefits of shared space without substantial overhead
With the advent of coworking companies such as Office Evolution Herndon, there are so many office space options that you can find the right fit on almost any budget. It may cost more than stealing WiFi at a coffee shop, but it’s much more affordable than a long-term commitment and is offered as a flexible membership, not a lease. Plus, it gives you access to a full spectrum of office support services that you probably don’t have at your home and certainly not at the local coffee shop.
Even if you want to go it at home, you absolutely need a virtual office that provides a professional address with mailbox space and even phone service to make that right impression to existing and potential clients.
3. The ability to scale space as your practice grows.
Coworking companies are designed to be flexible and accommodate growth. Need to take on a paralegal or an associate to assist on complex litigation or transaction? No problem, you can switch to a bigger office down the hall. Need to rent a conference room for a deposition? No worries, they got you covered. Need someone to screen your calls? You guessed it; they can do it. These are existing services that you don’t have to run around and waste time finding – it’s all there in your building.
4. They got services you don’t even know you need.
Coworking companies, such as Office Evolution Herndon are very familiar with the needs of attorneys, and in fact, we are designed, furnished, and operate to cater to the professional and legal community. Our services range from a staffed reception area to live answering and mundane things like private mailboxes and free parking. Remember, the less time you spend on administrative or technology upkeep (printers, WiFi, etc.) the more time you can spend on building your practice and doing client work. That, in turn, means more pay for you (see #1 above.)
5. Organic networking opportunities.
The image of coworking dominated by young people doing tech stuff is quickly changing. It is now much more diverse. For every tech startup, there’s a solo or freelance lawyer, financial consultant or a video production company. You just never know who you may meet. This is a natural extension of your network and, depending on your practice niche, may prove to be a valuable resource of contacts.
Not All Coworking Space is Equal
Coworking space has exploded in the Dulles Technology Corridor from Herndon to Ashburn. For professionals like attorneys, however, getting the right coworking solution is a must.
It’s like choosing a home. You need to like the location, space, the style, and available amenities. The image of 20 somethings zooming around a cavernous open space playing ping-pong while designing the latest app is a reality at certain coworking spaces. Indeed, when coworking came into being it was very much geared to that crowd.
Times have changed, and coworking companies such as Office Evolution Herndon have thoroughly professionalized the coworking experience making it the go-to option for professionals such as attorneys. The professional décor and layout, soundproofed private offices and conference rooms lend itself to the legal profession. Indeed, Office Evolution as a brand and company is specifically aimed at the mature professional.
Just a few advantages of Office Evolution Herndon include:
- Comfortable, quiet, professional office setting
- Excellent location close to Reston Town Center, the Herndon and soon-to-open Silverline Metro Station, Worldgate Centre and Dulles International Airport
- Private, furnished offices
- Free parking currently available
- Meeting or conference room rental, daily/weekly/monthly
- Staffed reception
- Impressive business address with a private, secure mailbox, offering you a virtual office
- Live phone answering service, so you never miss a call and avoid unsolicited callers
- Onsite support to ensure your office and meeting needs are satisfied (WiFi, printing, fax services)
- Communal kitchen with free coffee house grade hot beverages
- Networking opportunities
But don’t just take my word for it. Your choice in office space is a critical decision. If you want flexibility, lower costs and less administrative hassle, coworking may be right for your solo or freelance practice. When exploring options Request a Tour of our brand Business Center or call 703-454-0191. Modern, professional office space for your practice can be an affordable reality.
Office Evolution Herndon — 205 Van Buren St. Suite 120 Herndon, VA 20170
Minutes from Dulles Airport and centrally located in the Herndon Business District, Office Evolution Herndon keeps you in the center of the action without the long commute. We’re just a short drive from Ashburn, Reston, Sterling, Chantilly and other nearby communities. When the new Silver Line Metro Station opens, you’ll be within a 10-minute walk. For those who drive we have Free Parking. Outside the office, we are a great location for work or play. Walk to Worldgate Centre for premier shopping, movies and dining. Get lunch at fantastic local restaurants, or head to Reston Town Center.