Today's feature at Attorney@Work is Five Things to Look for in Shared Office Space. The piece was written by a real state professional and I enjoyed reading it. But I would hate for a lawyer to use this article as their sole guide in their search for shared office space as it omits any reference to the significant ethical issues involved in office sharing. In Chicago there are many types of professional suites available for rent. But in many other areas, office sharing between lawyers often means renting from a law firm that has more space than required or a law firm that has divided itself into small firms or solo practices while retaining the same office space.
Office Sharing: The Promise and the Pitfalls is a short feature that Oklahoma City attorney James Slayton and I wrote some time ago for an Oklahoma Bar Association Solo & Small Firm Conference. It covers many subjects including the important of having a written fee agreement and all participants having professional liability insurance. I believe the better practice in these situations is for lawyers to avoid taking cases in opposition to each other due to the many problems with confidentiality and client perception. You may have your entire practice on a laptop that no one else can access and have your phone answered by an outside service. But there is still a risk that opposing parties will find themselves sitting in the same reception area, stewing about whether their rights are really being protected. (Let's assume it is a hotly contested divorce case and both lawyers are unavoidably late to make the office appointment.) Since the lawyers build systems to avoid any leakage of information, it is hard to prevent that from happening.
We will likely see more office sharing arrangements with lawyers in the future. A lawyer using cloud-based practice management tools primarily needs an office location to have someone to sign for certified mail and deliveries and to have face-to-face meetings with clients and others. Some will pay for just those services and conferences rooms work well for many meetings.
Before you make a final decision read our article and also check out the excellent Office Sharing Checklist from Laura Calloway, Director of Service Programs for the Alabama State Bar. You probably won't find a better checklist than this one.