Starting a law firm is difficult. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours to be successful. But most attorneys who start a law firm don’t fail because they aren’t willing to put in the hard work and long hours. They fail because they don’t have enough money saved up to properly fund the business. Due to cash flow issues and the chance you might not have any clients for a while, it is important to keep overhead expenses low from the outset. The major recurring expenditure will be office space and, more specifically, the cost to rent office space. Below you will find the basic ideas for office space when starting your firm.
1) Traditional Office Space.
For many business owners, the thought of having a dedicated office that they go to everyday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., is very important. Attorneys as a whole fall into a sort of “old school” style in that they are, as a profession, slow to warm to new trends. That’s okay, but when it comes to office space, traditional offices can be quite pricey. Therefore, it is important to get the most bang for your buck if you choose to take the traditional office space route. Make your office pay for itself, by locating it in an area where it will draw business. For example, if you are a criminal attorney, it may be wise to rent space next to the courthouse.
2) Using Your Home.
The advantage to having a home office is that it is not expensive. Other than outfitting the office, and replacing furniture, computers, or other items when they break, it really doesn’t cost anything to set up shop in your home. The disadvantage is that a home office can give the impression of unprofessionalism or even the lack of success. Certain practice areas are not suited for a home office (think criminal law) because you can’t meet certain clients in your home. Or at least you shouldn’t.
3) Sharing Office Space.
Office sharing is an excellent way to keep costs down and perhaps benefit from others in the meanwhile. While it isn’t necessarily cheap to share an office with other professionals, the benefits can be immense. For example, if you share office with another attorney in your same practice area, you have an immediate resource for information. If you share with another attorney who doesn’t practice in the same areas, you have a referral source. Finally, if you share with other types of professionals (i.e. CPA), you have the best of both worlds.
4) Off-Site Office Space.
A virtual office is essentially an off-site location where you can receive your mail, have a professional answering service, and rent office space for meetings if needed. Most of your work will be done in some other location, like your home. But the virtual office provides a professional image at the fraction of the cost. Some providers even offer a la carte services, such as only a mailbox or only an answering service. It is a great alternative to the traditional or shared office in terms of price, but may not be the longterm solution due to the lack of a fixed presence.
It is important to choose your office space wisely at any stage of your law firm growth, but it is especially important when you first open your firm. Do your research and make an educated decision about what will be the best for your law firm, mostly from a financial perspective.