Location And Legal Office-Space Options: Sharing Space
For attorneys, there are a variety of good reasons to share office space with their peers. Not only are there obvious economic benefits such as sharing rent, staff, office equipment, and other expenses, but there are valuable opportunities for client referrals, relationship-building, and mentorship. In this scenario, attorneys share just about everything – furnishings, equipment, personnel, supplies, and resource materials.
Generally, in an office-sharing arrangement, the practitioner subleases with other practitioners, sharing common areas such as a lobby, kitchen, conference room, and any other shared section of the office. The responsibility of managing the space is shared, thus providing the flexibility to address and meet the needs of each individual practitioner. Each practitioner is required to contribute which may be based on an equal share of the monthly bill, or proportionate share, the latter based on actual use.
The benefit of sharing office space is that an attorney may have access to all the amenities of an established, efficient law office, at a reasonable cost. The potential exists that the office may act as a source of referrals that will enhance and increase the clientele of a beginning or even established practitioner. Additionally, lawyers who share office space with colleagues have the opportunity to build relationships with other attorneys where they may act as mentors, or as proteges.
A disadvantage of sharing office space is that it requires compatibility and coordination while lacking centralized control. It requires an attorney to have a good working relationship and cooperation with all of his or her office mates. Mixing several or even a few attorneys will often expose the incompatibility of attorneys who have larger egos.
Many practitioners have different values in how they operate an office and how they practice law. A successful office-sharing relationship requires individuals with similar values and practicing styles, which may be difficult to find.
Of course, attorneys sharing office space must not be perceived by clients and the public as practicing together, which may cause them to share liability as well. During an office visit, a client may be confused about whose law office or personnel they are encountering. This type of confusion may result in the loss of clientele, as well as a decrease in the level of client service and care. Also, sharing office space presents greater opportunities for conflicts of interest to arise or confidential information, such as client files and trust account information, to be inadvertently disclosed.
Also, it is inescapable that, to some extent, each practitioner is dependent upon the financial success of the other. If one practitioner is unable to meet his or her financial obligations, then the others by default must assume this practitioner’s share either temporarily or even permanently until a suitable, compatible replacement may be found.
Perhaps the best part about sharing office space with other lawyers is that it is always easy to find a sympathetic ear or just some good, sage advice.
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