Back in 1999, seven months pregnant with my younger daughter, I surrendered the Washington D.C. office around the corner from the White House that I’d occupied for half a decade. Though the rent was bargain basement cheap – around $500 including the phone line – I realized that I’d only used the space a dozen times, if that much since my older daughter’s birth three years earlier and keeping the office didn’t make sense. And since I planned to cut back on my hours even more with a new baby, saving $500 would make a difference. Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was somehow taking a step backwards by moving my office back home where I’d started when I couldn’t afford anything else.
Fast forward to 2007, and attitudes, including my own, have completely changed (something that is reflected in my book as well). Now many lawyers and small business folks are affirmatively embracing the benefits of the virtual or home office and using those benefits as a selling point for clients.
Though you’re probably already familiar with virtual law-vangelists like Stephanie Kimbro, Grant Griffiths or Chuck Newton, more and more solos and small firms are following this path. A recent example is Rhode Island family and divorce lawyer, Christopher Pearsall. He’s proudly proclaimed
that he plans to close his physical office in Cranston, Rhode Island and go completely virtual. All the better, he says that he’ll pass the savings on to his clients, many of whom are struggling in these tumultuous economic times. Moreover, Pearsall is using the opportunity to tout his firm’s technological prowess – he’ll be the first Rhod Island divorce lawyer in the state to go completely virtual and almost 100 percent digital. That’s likely to help him draw a whole new category of clients who work in the high tech industry or otherwise adept with technology and clients with busy schedules (which means they’re employed and earning money) who appreciate the convenience of virtual access.
When I graduated law school twenty years ago, most lawyers would have turned up their nose at a home office lawyer and most lawyers would have gone into debt just to rent office space rather than work at home. Those days, quite simply, are history, rendered as obsolete as Supreme Court precedent like Dred Scott or Plessy v. Ferguson. And though I don’t like to think about my increasing age (though I have to today since it’s my birthday – 44th, to save you a Google search!), getting older is made more palatable by giving me a chance to bear witness to positive changes in our profession.