In the previous post, we mentioned that office space and support staff are typically among the biggest overhead costs for solo attorneys and micro-boutique law firms (SAMB). Attorneys have a wide spectrum of office space options depending on their work styles and budget. Many options exist between a home-based office and a full-scale traditional office facility. The key to selecting the right option is to know the office requirements of the attorney(s), the tradeoffs among the different options, and ways to overcome the disadvantages.
For example, the solo attorney working at home could be sacrificing connectivity and professionalism. These shortcomings can be alleviated, however, by using a virtual receptionist to answer phone calls and by renting professional meeting space by the hour when the attorney needs to meet clients. Multiple attorneys in a micro boutique can all work from home and have a virtual receptionist manage calls and handle in-person client needs (e.g., picking up and dropping off documents, scanning materials, notarizing, etc.). Leo Legere, a criminal defense attorney and current user of Intelligent Office, found that with modern technology, they didn’t need their own office anymore. “The lawyers are always in court, we were almost never in the office, so the office was simply a place to meet clients and to generate business. [Having our own fully-staffed office] wasn’t an effective means and it was very costly for us,” explained Legere. As “all of our employees work out of their homes most of the time,” Legere now uses a virtual office to serve his clients’ needs.
For the SAMB that needs complete office amenities, virtual offices may be a cost-effective solution. Instead of paying for exclusive private reception areas, meeting rooms, and office equipment that may not be utilized all the time, attorneys with small practices can rent shared facilities and business amenities that can reduce expenses and still convey a professional image. The virtual office service provider (VOSP) is a much less costly option because resources are pooled. At some VOSPs, the attorney can rent private fully furnished office suites and use the shared facilities on an as-needed basis.
Maintaining a staff of receptionists and paralegals can also be very costly. According to productivity experts, turnover costs can range from a large fraction of an employee’s annual salary to multiples of it. Staff turnover can also burden the attorney with all the problems and paperwork associated with administration, hiring, training, and termination. More comprehensive VOSPs can provide virtual assistants that can perform receptionist duties as well as other duties typically assigned to paralegals. They can be trained as staff members of the SAMB with specific knowledge about the firm’s business. They can answer questions about practice areas, the consultation process, and fees; schedule appointments; and fill out customer intake forms. A huge advantage of such an arrangement is that the SAMB does not need to worry about office coverage, as a team of virtual assistants can provide full coverage during the business day, without interruptions from breaks, lunch, sick time, or vacation. Hiring one full-time receptionist also costs a lot more than outsourcing the job to a team of virtual receptionists. Legere decided to go with virtual receptionists because he encountered “difficulties always keeping reliable help that will show up on a daily basis. It turns out to be an expensive proposition” to maintain a full-time office staff.
A good VOSP can scale with an SAMB’s needs and budget by offering à la carte services, flexible plans, and deeply discounted bundled pricing. With customized virtual office solutions, SAMBs can save on overhead costs, such as office rent and a full-time staff, and still maintain the business services and professional presence they require. Together with an effective lead-capture system, these strategies can give the SAMB the competitive edge.