Surge in CoWorking Options for Lawyers

Over the years, I’ve posted quite a bit about non-traditional office space options like co-working , on demand space and even hybrid vacation/work space. Although any one of these alternatives are suitable for lawyers, none of them are designed exclusively for lawyers.

But increasingly, co-working spaces for lawyers have been cropping up all over the country.  The notion of shared offices space isn’t new per se –  a 2007 ABA Journal piece on “million dollar solos” featured Florida lawyer Cheney Mason who described how he took out a long term lease in an office building, leased the space to other solos and small firms who were able to bounce ideas off each other and exchange referrals. Today’s co-working spaces employ that same principle – one of the first, Law Firm Suites touts its client referrals as one of the benefits of the space,  even suggesting that added income from referrals can “take the sting out of writing the rent check.” Other spaces have their own USP’s. Venue in Dallas has membership requirements – 5 years in practice and two references, though it reserves ten spots for associate members with less than 5 years of practice. Docket in Western Massachusetts will target criminal defense and assigned lawyers who are required to have an address in Springfield. And  LawBank  in Denver, which just opened a second space is capitalizing on the surge of local interest in co-working spaces.  Not only do these spaces include amenities that are important to lawyers, such as private conference rooms and call rooms, but they also offer iCLE and other speaking events as part of the cost of rent. Indeed, they may eventually replace many of the benefits offered by bar associations.

Even large law firms are moving away from the corner office model in favor of open work spaces with alcoves and common areas for collaboration. Big law firm Reed Smith recently adopted a practice much like co-working known as “hotelling” in its Falls Church, VA and San Francisco offices, where lawyers sit at changeable temporary work desks. The firm decided on this model after metrics showed office occupancy down on Mondays, Fridays and holidays – leaving enough open space to accommodate all lawyers on a revolving basis.

For cash-strapped lawyers starting out, co-working spaces — whether lawyer-specific or not — are a godsend, giving lawyers a professional address and a place to work out of the house without the costs associated with a traditional office such as higher rent, a long-term lease and  furniture and equipment. Moreover, lawyers can use the space to meet with clients, host events and build relationships with other tenants. Coworking space can also give more experienced lawyers a way to expand their reach by opening satellite offices in different jurisdictions.

Have you ever worked in a co-working space, and if yes, what’s your experience been like?


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


  1. Paul Spitz on April 12, 2016 at 11:03 am

    The two primary issues with coworking space are privacy and noise. Regarding privacy, it’s very difficult to handle a call at your desk, so you either have to plan your calls, or do everything via mobile phone (which means you spend the entire phone call shouting “what?? what??? I lost your signal!!”). You also can’t leave documents out on your desk when you aren’t there, and you have to be mindful of what’s on your computer screen. At night, you have to take everything with you, or lock it up.

    Regarding noise, have you ever wondered why all those people in fun, collaborative workspaces are wearing headphones? It’s because they can’t concentrate on their work. They are tuning out their neighbors. People are more productive when they have private office space. Cubicles are a distant second. The typical cowork space open desk is third, or maybe even fourth, behind working on the subway.

  2. myshingle on April 12, 2016 at 11:14 am

    I work in a co-working space that has private space available for phone calls. And I often will do calls after hours.

  3. Paul Spitz on April 12, 2016 at 11:39 am

    The cowork space I used for the first year of my solo practice had private phone rooms, too. That was good if I had a call scheduled or was making an outgoing call, but it doesn’t really work for those random incoming calls. Also, the walls were paper thin.

  4. Noel French on April 14, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I run my practice primarily out of a coworking space in Detroit, and I tried a couple others before finding this one. I’m the only private practice here, but there’s a non-profit law firm that operates here as well. Some coworking locations are more suited to an attorney’s needs than others. My current space, which I think is probably pretty unique for a lot of reasons, works fairly well. There are reservable, private meeting rooms, I’m able to rent a desk, and the community is fairly tight knit (you have to sign up for a year at a time, even if you’re only signing up for access to common space) so I’m not terribly concerned with any of my equipment being stolen. The owners and community managers also stress the need to keep volume at reasonable levels – this wasn’t the case at other spaces I tried. At one, a gentleman behind me was literally yelling “Get cake get cake!” at regular intervals for about 10 minutes. That space also didn’t have private meeting rooms. I only went the one time.

    Some of the problems that Paul mentions remain even at my current coworking space – random phone calls are not ideal, and I’ve gone paperless to avoid issues of storing important documents at my office (which is probably a good thing anyway). At any rate, the annoyances are offset by the benefits – a great community, rent a fraction of what I would pay anywhere else nearby, not having to worry about utilities and other expenses, not slowly going insane like I was when I was working primarily from home (this is a joke. mostly.), etc.

    I think coworking works better for some practice areas than others, as well. If I had a practice where my clients were likely to be very emotional or sensitive, this might not be the best place to meet them, just because privacy here will never be what it is in a private office. To be clear, I’m not talking about issues of privilege, more thinking of a scenario where someone has a meltdown or has to discuss an emotional trauma – I can’t imagine having to walk past a room full of strangers on the way out of my office would be an ideal way to close that meeting.

    Like all things, I suppose, it really comes down to the particulars of the space and your practice – I’m fortunate to have one in my community that works fairly well for my needs.

  5. Patti Mancabelli on April 30, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    I am a 20-year attorney, three of which have been solo as business counsel to small and medium-sized businesses. I handle business needs from formation to commercial litigation. I am about to sign a lease for a two-story 1300+ square foot building with a conference room, two baths and a kitchen. My landlord is giving me time (and severely discounted rent) to figure out what I need for call rooms, walls (traditional or sound-resistant), cubicles, open space etc. I have a large local network and intend to survey the needs of potential co-working tenants and then “build to suit” so to speak once I get them to sign on. I am thinking of targeting businesses as opposed to attorneys, though the idea of creating a network of different types of solo business attorneys (tax, environmental, IP, employment) under one roof is intriguing. I very much want to keep a large space on the second floor open for large gatherings, collaborative efforts. Any advice on any aspect of this?

  6. Matthew Johnston on May 12, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    I have been using a coworking space for pretty much the entire time I have been a solo (just over three years). The space is ideal because I get all the normal office services with only a minimum of overhead (I pay about 55% less per month for rent than I would if I had an office in the same area and I pay none of the overhead like electricity, internet, etc. I sacrifice only one thing, having a law colleague immediately available to bounce ideas off of. I make up for that one sacrifice by having lots of local lawyers on speed dial and email.

    As for Paul’s concerns about privacy and noise. Every office I have been in get’s noisy, even if you have a door. In my coworking space, if I need quiet, I can leave the community room for one of the more quiet spaces in the building; there are plenty available and if it really is that bad (and it has never been that bad) the public library and the Courthouse library are less than two blocks away in order to get quiet.

    I will admit to being pretty good personally about tuning out noises and distractions so if a person does not possess such a skill, a coworking space will probably not be for you.

    As for privacy and documents/computers. True coworking spaces are like a community (at least the good ones are) and there are certain modicums of behavior expected. You don’t spread out on a desk or table, and you don’t mess with other people’s papers. The longer you are in a space, the more the other coworkers will look out for you. There have been many times when I have gotten up to take a call, forgot to lock my computer, and returned to find my computer closed by a coworker. If I know I am going to be away from my computer, I lock the computer (it is what that function is for), but sometimes I forget. Most of the day to day members in my space know I am a lawyer and respect my papers, my computer, and my ethical duties.

    I am the only regularly present lawyer in my coworking space and that has been the beauty of coworking. I have learned everything from medical training tools to software to social media to middle eastern affairs because of my coworkers and just asking them about their work. Often when talking generally about a case (everyone knows not to ask specifics), the opportunity to explain the problem and the law often sparks a mental breakthrough which helps my client). I like lawyers to be sure, but it is good to not always be in a law office all the time. I would not trade those experiences for the nicest corner office.

  7. Lauran Thompson on June 6, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    HI Carolyn. Thanks for the great article. As the founder of DOCKIT, a coworking space for lawyers in Springfield, MA, I can confirm that business is booming. Our membership base consists of criminal defense lawyers, bar advocates, mediation/family lawyers and social security/disablity lawyers. I consistently hear from my members that DOCKIT is an affordable option to leasing space and that productivity levels are higher due to the variety of public and private spaces available for working. (P.S.-please note the spelling of DOCKIT).

  8. Lauren Corr on August 10, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    Noel – what is the name of the co-working space that you have found you like?

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