When I left law firm life, I was not sure where I was going next, but I knew my family’s threshold of mom’s (me) work hours was being exceeded and we needed a change. After we regained our balance and bearings, I started to say yes to serving the legal needs of friends, family and acquaintances. As this referral business grew, I realized that we could make this work as my own practice…it would be (and still is) tough, but it was just “right” for me and for us.
I worked out of our spare bedroom at first, utilizing the free space so that I could spend money on developing my business. It was too tight though. I was stacking files on the bed and stuffing reams of paper under the desk. The distractions that pulled me away from work were limitless and it was just too hard to keep the dog and people out of the room. Something had to change. I did a hot and heavy hunt for a suitable commercial space, but narrowly dodged that commitment and found a better alternative.
While cruising around on Instagram during a bout of insomnia one night, I stumbled upon a new co-work space (LionShare CoWork) that had opened up nearby and decided to check it out. If you aren’t familiar with co-work, co-share, or co-op spaces, these are generally large open spaces with varying desk setups that startups, work-from-home types, and gig-workers can utilize at a fraction of what a traditional office space would cost. I decided to check it out because I was growing weary of the hunt for the perfect office on my very tight budget.
When I stepped inside, the modern decor captured my interest and I was excited to see young professionals all around, quietly focused on their work, tapping away at their keyboards. After learning how affordable membership was and that I could rent month-to-month, I thought, “Why not give it a try?” I have been here for a few months now, and I just love it! There are some challenges as to privacy and confidentiality that I have had to navigate, but nothing insurmountable. I encourage anyone starting your own solo or two-partner practice to consider this option to save on the fees of physical space. Here are just some of the reasons why I love practicing law in a co-work space.
- Affordability and Flexibility. Starting a business is not cheap (duh). The beginning stage of any business is rife with surprise expenses…and the expected ones are pretty tough too. Having an extremely reasonably priced office freed up so much room in my budget. For me, this equated to me having less stress about how long my savings would last, and a little more money for better software. What could you do with $1000+ more per month? Likewise, the co-work space that I am a member of also has several options for office space based on needs (offices with doors for one to three people, cubes, open desks, designated desks, etc). If I grow my practice, I can easily move into a larger space without the hassle of hunting for a new place. If I need to go smaller, I can do that too. This kind of flexibility is just not possible in a five-year commercial lease.
- Company and Conversation. Being a solo practitioner can be quite lonely, which for some people is desirable, but I enjoy having the option of chatting during a brain break. I am also surrounded by bright, business-minded individuals, many of whom are entrepreneurs. I enjoy bouncing my business ideas off of others, or eavesdropping on what they are working on. We inspire each other and talk out our plans, getting perspective and guidance from each other.
- Free Wifi and Zero Utilities. My co-work facility provides faster internet than I have at home…like a lot faster! Further, any blips in service are handled by the co-work space staff, and I don’t have to make service calls and sit on hold. The same applies to any utilities. I don’t have an electric or water bill, no common area maintenance fees, no HVAC units to maintain and repair. This low maintenance approach frees up so much of my time to practice law and see clients.
- Personal Safety. I practice family law which, unfortunately, is ripe territory for clients and opposing parties to wander into my office to stage their emotional outbreaks. I have never been attacked, but I worry about this with certain people. In the co-work space, I am surrounded by people (witnesses) who could come to my assistance quickly, or better yet, deter any verbal or physical attacks, if the situation arose.
- Luxurious Meeting Spaces. The boardrooms and meeting spaces in the co-work space have a great impression on clients. The design “wow factor” is something I could not afford on my current budget and that impact really helps clients to feel comfortable and special. The meeting spaces are well equipped with technology and make for seamless transition from my desk to the meeting table.
- Free Refreshments. My space offers free bottled water, coffee, Red Bull and even has a beer tap (for responsible use on a Friday afternoon of course). Refreshments are a nice touch for clients. In addition, the space often hosts large groups for meetings and they always leave behind free food. Cha-ching, lunch is taken care of.
- Built-In Networking. This space is filled with professionals whether they be fixtures like me, people testing out the space, people attending meetings, or clients of another co-op member. The flow of potential networking contacts is fairly steady, and there aren’t many attorneys in the space, so this gives my business visibility and helps encourage referrals…and I don’t have to drive halfway across town to a packed lounge and “mingle” with strangers to get my networking leads.
- No Brokers, No Agents, No Contracts. When I first started out, I was hunting hard for an office. This was time-consuming and frustrating. Every place I saw felt perfect and yet terrible all at the same time. I would lie awake at night wondering if I would be successful enough to cover the rent. The whole process made me uncomfortable: from the smug agents underestimating me, to the intense negotiations over who would fix plumbing. I felt so much freedom when I realized I did not have to jump into a major lease right away, and that I could take my time and work my way up to that.
I am so happy with where I am now that I may never leave. Really. I hope other attorneys who are thinking about striking out on their own, but who see commercial leases as a barrier to chasing that dream, will seek out a co-working space and give it a try.