Law firms have long been known for sprawling offices, where even the most junior associates get their own private workspace. While that’s changing as larger firms adopt standard-size offices, open floor plans and clustered workstations, some law practices are going in a different direction. They are moving to shared offices that allow them to reduce certain real estate expenses and work more collaboratively with peers.
As the demand for co-working spaces has grown, so have the options and amenities — including office centers designed specifically for the legal community. Here’s what you should expect if you’re shopping for legal-only shared office space.
1. Paralegal support. Some centers offer paralegal staff who can assist with everything from basic administrative tasks to legal research. Some services come at an additional fee, but it saves you the expense of hiring a full-time legal assistant. Paralegals and support staff, typically employed by the shared office provider, can also help line up court reporters, file paperwork and serve subpoenas.
2. Professional deposition rooms. While amenities like lounges and on-site gyms are common in most shared office suites, private deposition rooms don’t usually make the cut. In centers that cater to the legal community, look for access to private meeting rooms with videoconferencing capabilities to conduct depositions either remotely or in-person. You can rent this space as needed, without having to cover the cost for the extra space every day.
3. (Truly) private office space. Many co-working spaces have open floor plans that group tenants together in one large room or use glass partitions to wall off separate offices and meeting areas. This layout may appeal to startups and creative businesses that thrive on collaboration, but it’s not conducive to the day-to-day needs of most attorneys. Law-specific centers should provide access to lounges and other common areas where you can host guests and network with other legal professionals — without requiring you to give up a private office where you can have sensitive conversations with clients without them feeling like they’re in a fishbowl.
4. Next-door expertise. Most people choose a collaborative environment so they can work alongside and network with people from different industries. In legal-only centers, you have an opportunity to tap into a built-in network of legal professionals who specialize in different areas of law.
5. Location, location, location. Proximity to the courthouse is key for many lawyers, so most centers designed for the legal community are located in established legal districts close to the courthouse and other frequented buildings. If your office provider operates multiple locations — either in the same city or, in some cases, across the country — you may have the added benefit of working from whichever center is most convenient on a particular day, eliminating the need to commute back and forth.
The bottom line when evaluating any shared space is to make sure that you are able to reap the social and financial benefits of a collaborative environment without compromising either your professional responsibility or your image.