Is Co-Working A Good Idea For Lawyers?
Co-working, the hottest trend in shared workspaces since the advent of the cubicle, may work for many, but is it a good idea for lawyers?
For the uninitiated, it involves professionals from various fields sharing a workspace but working on independent activities. Unlike the traditional office, co-workers often don't work for the same organization and would work from home if not for the opportunity of shared office space.
Why do people do it? It's social. It helps create that synergy people experience when they work together. It also offers a solution to the problem of isolation of many freelancers and work-from-homers. Co-working spaces have all the perks of an office space: office supplies, printers, coffee machines, and camaraderie, and give co-workers a chance for collaboration that they might not otherwise experience.
Is it good for lawyers? Maybe. There are some perks, but some downfalls, too. Here are a few:
1. It's cheaper than an office and maintains your privacy
If you are a lawyer with a home office, having an outside address other than your home not only protects your privacy, you don't have to invest in renting a full-on office space. If you need some privacy, space for meetings, and a bit more anonymity than your home office and you're willing to spend a few hundred dollars a month -- not the few thousand that leasing a space can cost -- then a co-working space could be just the ticket.
You will also have access to a community kitchen, printers, paper shredders, copiers, faxes, secure wi-fi, and the option to receive certified mail.
2. It's great for networking
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons you should consider co-working is the incredible opportunity to expand your network beyond the traditional legal scene. Your new network -- which could include writers and artists, programmers and designers, and everyone in-between -- will not only inspire you but also force you to see your business in a different way.
You will make new friends, have potential client referrals, and get some great advice that you likely would not have otherwise considered.
Recommended reading: The importance of networking at law school
3. It may increase your productivity
If you want a deeper connection to your work, immerse yourself in a community that works for you. That community may just be a co-working space.
When you have high levels of autonomy, you can be yourself at work. Give yourself the space and support you need to be your best self and do your best work. You will find that you might just have a burst of energy, too!
4. Not so great for business development
If you are looking at co-working as a means to cultivate high-paying clients, you may want to rethink the co-working idea. Can you get business from co-workers in a co-working space? Probably. Will you be able to make a living on it? Probably not.
Other freelancers and otherwise free agents of the working world often don't have the resources for a lawyer. They may want free legal advice, but they probably don't want to hire you.
Accept that you might generate some business from a co-working space if you're lucky, and you might not.
5. Challenge to maintain client confidentiality
This is a big one, especially if you need confidential spaces for clients. You can't speak with clients about confidential issues in a public space. Period.
If you are on an open floor with other businesses and have limited access to conference rooms, rethink co-working.
However, if your space has the option for a private, dedicated office space at a higher premium, but still not quite as expensive as a legal office suite, you might be better off.
Interested? Think about it. Run a search for coworking spaces for lawyers. You might be surprised at what's out there.
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.