Attorneys: For Solo Practitioners and Small Firms Sometimes the Best Office is No Office
Solo and small firm attorneys are often looking to keep their overhead down. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by working from primarily from home and utilizing the services and benefits of a virtual office facility. Virtual offices afford attorneys the ability to work from anywhere they choose, while enabling them to establish a professional presence and a place to meet clients in a conveniently-accessible office atmosphere on an as needed basis. The virtual office also serves as their professional address that can be marketed and a place where they can receive their professional mail and have clients drop off and pick-up documents or payments.
Virtual Office facilities are located in most Tennessee cities, primarily in the major commercial business districts.Many of the national and regional virtual office companies allow their members to utilize their facilities in other parts of the city, state or country on as needed basis.A virtual office membership can be usually be established for less than $75 a month.
Virtual Office vs. Shared Office Arrangements
A virtual office is different from an office sharing arrangement.Most virtual office facilities provide mailbox/address services and on-demand office space to businesses.Unlike a shared office facility or an executive suite, offices and conference rooms are rented by the hour, half-day, or by the day; as opposed to monthly or annually.The attorney does not have a dedicated office or the fixed cost of one.This is a cost-effective option if you only meet with clients in person or need a conference room a few times a month.
The “per use” or “pay as you go” model of virtual office facilities is attractive because you only pay for office space when you are actually using it.If the attorney only uses the virtual office when she is billing time or charging a fee, then the hourly rental cost or office use bundle easily pays for itself.Even if a shared or single rental office only costs a few hundred dollars a month, it still may not pay for itself every month, because you are paying for it every hour of everyday during the term of the lease.Finally, many virtual office facilities have administrative staff and other technological resources designed to support small business and mobile professionals.
Virtual Office vs. Traditional Full-time Office Lease
For most solo practitioners, working from home and utilizing a virtual office is a better choice than entering into commercial office lease. Most landlords require a 5 year commitment.Most virtual office facilities require a commitment of less than a year; thereby providing the practice with more flexibility.
The financial investment and commitment involved in a traditional office far exceeds the lease.Utilities, office equipment, furniture, phone service, and internet service are just a few expenses that one has to incur in establishing a traditional office outside of their home. Working primarily at home and strategically using a virtual office, allows one to avoid duplicating or eliminate these expenses.
Professional image and marketing
Many attorneys worry that not having a full-time office will compromise their image and be unattractive to client.In addition to the ethical concerns, most clients prefer to meet with a lawyer in a private office or conference room in a professional environment.Most attorneys prefer not to have clients meet at their personal home.The virtual office meets the needs of both the clients and attorneys.
Furthermore, a virtual office can enhance your personal image by allowing you to establish a professional presence in a prestigious location downtown or in upscale suburban office complex near attractive amenities without paying pricy rent in these areas. While most lawyers are not required to have an office near the courthouse or in a particular neighborhood, certain addresses or areas may be more appealing to certain prospective and current clients Many firms have used virtual offices to open a branch office in other Ohio cities, before making a full investment in brick and mortar.Others attorneys have utilized virtual offices to have multiple offices throughout the same city for meeting and marketing purposes.Virtual office can provide a place where a key employee who has moved to a different city or state can occasionally work or conduct meetings.Depending on the location of the facility, the virtual address can also increase your law practice’s search engine ranking for those searching for lawyers online.
Many virtual office facilities are staffed, thereby allowing the practice to have a full-time front desk without a full-time office.Attorneys can have their clients drop off documents and payments to a reliable and professional person.When clients visit the office, clients are greeted and offered refreshments, giving the same professional feel as a larger firm.
Most importantly, the attorney who minimizes his or her expenses by utilizing a virtual office can devote more resources towards other marketing and technological solutions to maintain and grow their practices.Many attorneys utilizing virtual office have asserted that many clients actually admire that their fees are not being invested in fancy office and furniture.
In sum, many solo practitioners and small firms have found that virtual office combined with a home office can be a cost-effective way to reduce overhead expenses while maintaining a professional presence.Recently, some large law firms have even begun utilizing these virtual office facilities.[i] This trend will continue to grow as more attorneys and firms discover this cost-effective way of having an office for their practice.