Solo Lawyers: Should You Use a Virtual Office for Your Law Firm?

Many solo practitioners are looking to keep their overhead down, often working from home when they’re not in court or meeting with clients. One way of keeping costs down for a solo practice is using a virtual office. Virtual offices allow attorneys the ability to work remotely, while enabling them to meet clients in a professional, conveniently-accessible setting when needed.

If you are a solo working from home, this might be a great option for you.

First, What is a virtual office?

A virtual office provides address services, communication, and on-demand physical office space to businesses, allowing lawyers to reduce traditional law office costs while maintaining professionalism. Many virtual office plans included access to shared office space where attorneys can use a conference room, office equipment like fax machines and copiers, have mail received at the virtual office address, and have access to a receptionist.

Your virtual office arrangement can be as minimal as having a mailing address for you to list on court filings and receive mail (the most “virtual” of virtual offices) to having a receptionist answer your calls, with a dedicated office suite and access to a conference room to meet with clients.

Why a virtual law office?

“You get access to a great place to meet with clients,” said Charles Sanford Smith, a New York City-based criminal defense lawyer. “My virtual office has a conference room, private workstations, and coffee and soft drinks I can offer to my clients.” The virtual office company Mr. Smith uses, DaVinci, allows him to meet with clients at any of their 50 locations in the New York City area and, when needed, use a private workstation at their offices.

The virtual office spaces are usually in high-rise buildings and accessible by public transportation, making meeting with clients easy. Many solo practitioners like using virtual offices for that reason. Meeting with clients is very convenient, both for the client and the attorney. And, you’re in a space that impresses clients and other attorneys.

As a solo practitioner, I am trying to keep overhead down. Rent is a huge part of overhead. Using a virtual office is great, being able to work from home but go to a physical office if I want to get work done or have a client meeting.

Charles Sanford Smith
Cost savings is also a huge factor in why many attorneys are going with virtual offices. “As a solo practitioner, I am trying to keep overhead down.” Mr. Smith said. “Rent is a huge part of overhead. Using a virtual office is great, being able to work from home but go to a physical office if I want to get work done or have a client meeting.”

The mailing address feature, offered by every major virtual office company, allows you to receive your law firm mail at a corporate address instead of your home address. In New York City, for example, most of the virtual office locations are located in either Midtown or the Wall Street areas in high-rise buildings. A virtual mailing address can make your firm look more professional, giving your firm an identity that gives confidence to prospective clients. “My virtual office is on Avenue of the Americas in a well-known building. It changes the way you’re perceived, among clients, and your perception among other attorneys,” Mr. Smith said.

When you sign up for a virtual mailing address, you can list the address on your business card, court filings, and website. It’s great if you don’t want clients or other attorneys to know where you live, Mr. Smith said. You can have mail sent to you at the virtual office for you to either pick up at your convenience or they can forward it to your home address.

What about a co-working space?

Co-working spaces like Hive at 55, The Yard, and General Assembly are similar to virtual offices, but generally focus on providing spaces in the open. “I looked at co-working spaces,” Mr. Smith said. “The open feel is great for tech companies with people bouncing ideas around, but not if you’re a criminal defense lawyer. You need some privacy.” If you’re on a client call in a public co-working space, it’s definitely not privileged, Smith added.

Is a virtual office right for my firm?

When deciding whether a virtual office is right for you, there are several considerations. For example, is your firm going to be reliant on walk-in traffic and volume? Will you expect to be dealing face-to-face with clients consistently? If so, we’d recommend forgetting virtual offices and getting a dedicated office space.
Pro Con
Affordable options Often the full office package can be as expensive or more expensive than renting office space because of the premium carried by the address location
Can allow you to work from home while having a different mailing address and a receptionist to answer calls Can be impractical for attorneys hoping to get volume business from walk-ins or frequently meeting face-to-face with clients
Having a well-regarded mailing address  
Office very accessible by public transportation  
Andrew Cabasso
About the Author: Andrew Cabasso
Andrew Cabasso is a practicing attorney and VP of Web Services at Uptime Legal where he runs JurisPage, an Internet Marketing firm specializing in online presence solutions for law firms including website design, SEO, and search marketing. He has given many lectures and CLEs on website design and Internet marketing to legal professionals. He is the author of Search Engine Optimization for Lawyers and The Complete Guide to Attorney PPC. Follow Andrew on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

One comment on “Solo Lawyers: Should You Use a Virtual Office for Your Law Firm?”

  • Really like this article, especially the profile of Mr. Smith. It’s a good example of the type of practice that finds success with a virtual office. It seems that lawyers who go to court frequently end up having fewer issues with isolation that most virtual attorneys complain about. Their forced to get out of their home office as a function of their job. The challenge will be when these attorneys want to level-up their practice by adding staff. Since won’t be covering the expense of office space, when they hire their first employee they will need to factor in the cost of labor plus the added cost of office space. This may make it more challenging for a virtual practice attorney to grow beyond a “one man army” (if that is in fact what is desired). We refer to Mr. Smith and your piece in our article about the past, present and future of virtual law practice. Link is here http://bit.ly/1LmPTy6. Hope you like it!

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