By P. Hong Le, Esq.
Like many other solo practitioners, I maintain a brick and mortar office (“BMO”) away from home and an office at home. Having both spaces allows me the freedom to work from home or in Baltimore City. The latter is preferable for meeting clients and other functions. Pour in a few days working at a coffee shop, and my time spent in front of a monitor becomes a little more interesting. But as the worst of the pandemic seems behind us, fewer and fewer people are returning to their BMOs full-time. I know some solos who have given up their BMOs and work entirely from home. So, that got me thinking. Should I jettison my city office?
Before the pandemic hit, my time was equally split working at home and in the city. When it was in full swing, I rarely went into the city, and when I did, it was to retrieve mail and to carry out minor tasks that required my presence. Clients became accustomed to meeting via phone and video. Even prospective clients preferred Zoom over a masked, in-person meeting. That preference seems to have continued, even as the pandemic is approaching its end. It’s more convenient and everyone is used to the technology.
Personally, I prefer working from home. It’s comfortable, I can dress casually, and I spend the time I am not commuting more productively. The average commute time in the U.S. is 55 minutes per day! In a profession built around billable time, that adds up. I also save money on meals, parking, and overhead. Giving up my BMO seems like a no-brainer.
Yet, I find it beneficial to continue leasing my BMO space. First, keeping my BMO provides me with an official address that I can continue to use for sending and receiving mail. The alternative is using a P.O. Box, which, although practical, is not as professional as a physical address that clients, parties, and opposing counsel can see. Second, some clients still prefer to meet me in person at my office.
Some colleagues choose a neutral location like a library, coffee shop, or restaurant for meetings if they do not have a BMO. That’s fine under certain circumstances. However, when I’m meeting a client for the first time, I want to make a good impression. Inviting them to my office allows them to identify me with a space and location, which can be important to building a strong attorney-client relationship. It is especially critical when dealing with clients who have traditional assumptions about lawyers and how we operate. I don’t know any attorneys who meet with clients at their home office. I think there’s a good chance that if you do meet a prospective client at your home, they would probably remain a prospective client.
The work spaces that I have chosen for my practice are a product of the transactional and litigation services that I offer. If my practice was solely transactional, I could see myself working from home and giving up my BMO. With the prevalence and convenience of virtual meetings, clients may actually prefer to meet virtually rather than in person. And after you have established that attorney-client relationship, meeting at a public location to carry out certain tasks may not present an issue. So, if operating your practice solely from home works best for you, then do it.
Solos out there should evaluate what type of setup works best for your practice and which allows you to maintain a level of professionalism that your clients expect.
P. Hong Le is the Principal at the Law Office of P. Hong Le, LLC, where he focuses his practice on Real Estate Law, Community Association Law, and Civil Litigation. He opened his office in 2015, providing legal services in the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area. He resides in Severna Park with his wife and two children.