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Second Cities for Law Firms

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Last year, I blogged about Second City Solos which suggested that lawyers may have more success in getting a new law practice off the ground since they’ll face less competition than they would in major metropolis cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles, NeW York City, Washington D.C., etc… But today, I came across this article about a law firm that’s found a unique way to work with “first” city clients in Silicon Valley from its second city home in Houston, Texas.

The law firm,Patterson + Sheridan is a patent litigation firm with offices in Houston and Dallas, Texas. Seeking to take advantage of opportunities in Silicon Valley, the firm – instead of opening up a satellite office  in California decided instead to purchase a $3 million corporate jet.  Each month, the nine-person jet flies from Houston to California where the lawyers meet with existing clients and market for new ones.  The firm reports that even with the cost of the jet, the firm is able to offer its California clients lower rates because office space in Houston is 48 percent less while salaries are 52 percent less. Plus, because the jet is more comfortable than commercial airlines, lawyers can easily do billable work while in transit.

Certainly, buying a $3 million dollar jet is neither cost-effective nor feasible for most solo and small firms. Nevertheless, the Patterson + Sheridan model may be worth considering in a modified form. For example. a lawyer residing in upstate New York on clients in much pricier New York City. The work could be handled remotely, but if FaceTime with clients is important or court appearances are required, attorneys could maintain a co-working space in the city and spend a few days there each month, relying on cost-effective Airbnb to stay for a few days. The firm could charge a slightly higher rate to cover the cost of these added travel expenses – but even the higher rate would likely be far less than the prevailing rate for attorneys in New York City.  The same approach could be utilized for lawyers living in an adjacent, but less expensive state – though of course, in the cross state situation, a lawyer would need to be licensed in both states and abide by any bonafide office requirements.


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