Managing expenses is a special challenge for sole practitioners and small law firms. Overhead expenses can account for about 35% of gross revenues for sole practitioners, and according to a Survey of Law Firm Economics by Altman Weil Publications, Inc., they average 44% for small law firms. See parts 1 and 2 for various virtual office strategies solo attorneys and micro-boutiques (SAMBs) can deploy to enhance their professional image, improve client acquisition, and increase productivity.
Office space and support staff are typically among the biggest overhead costs for an SAMB. Over the past decade, however, technology has evolved to allow attorneys to work productively without a full-time, physical, and staffed office. Client communications can be done mostly by phone and email, with much-less-frequent face-to-face meetings. Virtual office service providers have helped SAMBs obtain a cost-effective alternative to traditional office arrangements by leveraging broader access to resources online, advanced computing and mobile technologies, robust communications platforms, and “always on” connectivity.
Attorneys now have a wide spectrum of office space options depending on their work styles and budget. On one end, working from home is very cost-efficient as it obviates the need for an expensive office lease. This alternative may function well for the attorney who spends a lot of time in the courthouse or clients’ offices, or who does not meet clients often. On the other end, leasing a full-time office with private suites, cubicles, meeting rooms, and reception area may be more suitable for a micro-boutique with a large volume of client meetings. Many other 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. The next post will elaborate on some of these factors.