In the legal profession, small firms and solo practitioners often face the challenge of finding suitable office space that meets their needs and budget. One option that has become increasingly popular is shared office spaces. Shared office space arrangements provide several advantages and present unique challenges for firms looking to expand and attract clients. Below, we explore some key takeaways firms should think about if considering shared office space arrangements.
- Cost-savings. One of the most significant advantages of shared office space is the ability to save on overhead expenses associated with running and maintaining an office space. These can be anything from office management software to equipment, supplies, utilities, internet, rent, and lease costs. Notably, shared office environments allow small firms and solo practitioners to leverage shared resources like research materials, practice management software, and administrative support. For smaller firms, especially solo practitioners, that may not have the resources to establish a full-service office independently, the cost savings and enhanced efficiency make a shared office environment an attractive option.
- Professional Image. Location and accessibility can play an essential role in building a professional image and brand. For that reason, small firms and solo practitioners might benefit from establishing their workplaces in shared office spaces that are centrally located. Further, with shared amenities like reception areas, conference rooms, and libraries, practitioners that work in a shared office space can curate a professional image that elicits confidence in their potential clients, strategic partners and employees.
- Collaboration and Collegiality. The shared office space environment can also be used to promote collaboration and collegiality. For example, shared office space can help practitioners expand their professional relationships and, in some cases, improve client services. By creating an environment where attorneys from different practice areas can collaborate, shared office spaces can help firms deliver comprehensive legal services. Many shared office spaces create an environment for networking, workshops, and special programming. These events, in turn, help foster relationship building and personal and professional development.
- Ethics and Confidentiality. Maintaining separate and distinct practices in the shared office environment is crucial for addressing potential confidentiality and ethical issues. For that reason, practitioners should delineate their practices, adopt confidentiality measures to protect client privacy and information, and implement compliance measures to avoid potential confusion and conflicts of interest. Among other things, measures may include setting up private meeting rooms, implementing secure printing and document management policies, legal ethics rule trainings, conducting conflict checks, and maintaining separate records.
- Malpractice. To ensure that each practice is treated as a separate entity, firms should also maintain separate liability insurance with enough coverage to handle any claims arising from their respective practice. Each firm should also establish clear written agreements that outline each practitioner’s responsibilities, liabilities, and expectations in the shared space. By addressing these issues proactively, practitioners sharing office space can mitigate the risks associated with professional negligence, maintain ethical standards, and protect their individual practices and reputations.
In short, for small firms and solo practitioners, sharing office space can offer several advantages, including cost savings, collaborative opportunities, and an enhanced professional image. Nonetheless, shared office space can also come with potential challenges related to privacy, conflicts of interest, and unique malpractice issues. By carefully considering the pros and cons, communicating effectively, and setting clear expectations, attorneys can make informed decisions about shared office space that best serves their practice and clients.