Is Using a PO Box As a Law Firm Address, Penny Wise, Pound Foolish or Passe?
A decade ago, Attorney at Work carried this piece penned by then-solo Ruth Carter which evaluated different mailing address options for her virtual law practice: (a) a bare-bones, UPS Store or PO Box option, (b) a mailing address at a corporate space with access to conference rooms or (c) a “faux office” with access to offices or conference rooms by the day with receptionist service and signage. Ultimately, Carter chose the UPS Store option which at around twenty bucks a month was less than the $125+ prevailing rates for the other choices.
In the earlier version of this post, I questioned whether Carter’s choice was “penny wise and pound foolish.” To be sure,I recognized as admirable Carter’s philosophy of minimizing start-up costs. But I argued that an office address wasn’t the place to cut corners since a PO Box or UPS store as a mailing address might cause clients to regard the firm as fly by night. And while contrary to the view of many bloggers (not to mention Jay Foonberg), I didn’t contend that a brick and mortar space was necessary, the faux office (now more commonly known as co-working space) seemed to be the best compromise and well worth an extra hundred dollars a month.
Ten years and one pandemic later, would I still take the same position? After all, the entire working world, lawyers included are rethinking remote work. Lawyers, particularly parents, have grown increasingly reliant on the flexibility of home-based work, especially when schools can still close without warning the next time a corona-variant crops up. And more importantly, clients too have embraced the convenience that virtual law offices provide. So with that in mind, here are best options for mailing addresses for virtual firms post-pandemic and circa 2022:
1. First, even as a virtual firm, you may still want to consider some kind of virtual or shared space office option for two reasons. For starters, a space out of the house can afford a nice break from the sometimes monotony of the carpet commute. More importantly, if you intend to build a robust Google Business Profile as a cheap way to supercharge your search ranking from the get-go, you will need some kind of physical space that meets Google’s eligibility requirements. See these tips for ensuring that coworking space qualifies. Many lawyers are also subletting a space a few days a month in colleagues’ offices to obtain an office address and satisfy the Google physical presence requirement.
Although deals on space are available post-pandemic, you’re still looking at a starting price of at least $150/month, and around $250+/month for coworking or shared office space. So evaluate whether the extra cost is worth the benefit of a solid foundation for cheap SEO and availability of potential escape from your home office.
2. Neither a traditional post office or UPS space really makes sense anymore – not because they come across as fly-by-night but simply because they’re impractical. If you’re virtual and need a super-cheap and convenient mail option, go with a virtual mailing service like EarthClass Mail, Postscan or others which will scan and email physical mail, store mail at a local address for pick up if request or provide a physical address for Fed Ex and UPS delivery. If you don’t care about a Google Business Profile (and many lawyers, myself included, don’t rely on SEO for clients) and want to operate leanly, virtual mail service is the way to go. Moreover, a modern-day email service where mail is always delivered direct to your inbox comes across as far more professional and reliable than a local post office box which conjures up images of uncollected mail gathering dust in an unattended steel cube.
Virtual offices are here to stay. Whether you use a co-working or virtual space or a virtual mailing service as an address, that’s your call and depends upon your budget and your needs. As for PO boxes and UPS addresses, they’re not just penny-wise and pound-foolish – they’re simply passe.
This article was originally January 17, 2012 and updated on March 14, 2022.
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