4 Simple Tips to Keeping it Clean:
The benefits of legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are highly valuable: Money savings, camaraderie, and availability of professional consultation. The legal ethics are highly important, yet simple. Here are four simple tips for keeping your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing in line with your state’s ethics rules.
1. Maintain Appearance of Professional Independence. Make it crystal clear to the public that you are independent lawyers, not a firm. Never imply otherwise on your letterhead, business cards, office signage, and directory listings; when answering the phone; or in fee agreement. (ABA Model Rule 7.5) For example, the receptionist should answer the telephone, “Law Offices,” not “Smith and Jones Law Offices.” And, your letterhead should read, “Smith Law Office” while your office mate’s letterhead should read, “Jones Law Office,” not “Smith and Jones Law Offices.” (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 7.5)
2. Maintain Absolute Confidentiality. Keep your client files absolutely confidential. This means separate staff, files, computers, telephones, and fax. Confidences must not be shared. For example, you can share a receptionist if she does not have access to your client information. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.6)
3. Avoid Even the Appearance of Conflict. Do not contemporaneously represent clients with adverse interests to those of your office mates. (ABA Model Rule 1.10) For example, if your office mate is representing adoptive parents in an adoption, don’t represent the birth mother. Just keep it clean. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.7)
4. You Can Share Fees. Follow normal co-counsel and fee sharing ethics rules (ABA Model Rule 1.5). Either allocate fees based on services provided or one lawyer assumes responsibility for the case and the client consents to fee sharing in writing. For example, Lawyer Smith does 40% of the legal work and receives 40% of the legal fees and Lawyer Jones does 60% of the legal work and receives 60% of the legal fees. (For example of states ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.5)
These 4 tips for keeping it clean in legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are meant to raise the red flag of awareness. Be sure to consult your state’s ethics rules for specific guidance and examples specific to your state for your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing.
The amount of available office space in Atlanta over the past five years has increased by nearly 6%. As other cities in the country braced for the recession, Atlanta’s lenders and developers ignored the warning signs and remained optimistic about the technology sector. Thinking that technology would continue to grow, many lenders eased up on financing terms, which caused some real estate developers to enter into risky projects. The resulting construction boom added an additional 3.6 million square feet of commercial space to the Atlanta market between 2008 and 2010. Even in the city’s most affluent areas, the commercial real estate market historically has only been able to absorb between 200,000 and 300,000 square feet of additional space per year.
Further complicating the commercial real estate market, the unemployment rate in the city had hit 10% by the fourth quarter of 2010. Companies were downsizing the workforce and the space needed to operate. While analysts agree that a dramatic improvement in Atlanta’s employment rate could help remedy the situation, forecasts suggest that a return to pre-recession employment may only occur after 2014. But even a return to pre-recession employment may not help much since the city’s vacancy rate was already on the rise before the recession hit. As a result, employment figures would have to rebound well beyond pre-recession figures to positively impact the commercial market.
As supply outstrips demand, landlords desperate to attract tenants are offering space at a significant discount. Rents are so depressed that it may take until 2016 for revenue to rebound. In the meantime, with less income generated, developers and landlords are hard pressed to meet their financial obligations. The result is an increase in the number of distressed properties, and ultimately, foreclosures. As of mid-2010, Atlanta led the country in seizures of real estate backed by securitized loans. For a city used to leading the nation in relocations fueled by a growing economy, the cruel reverse of fortune is taking its toll. Between June 2009 and June 2010, Atlanta led the nation with the highest percent of real estate transactions involving distressed properties – 46 percent.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine’s office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
Taken from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-14/atlanta-awash-in-empty-offices-struggles-to-recover-from-building-binge.html
Working throughout law school has been an amazing and unique experience. I can honestly say that my life would not have been the same without having had the opportunity to experience the law in a real-world, work environment. My experience has given me an opportunity that many law students might not have, and I’m thankful for that opportunity. Although it was often difficult to manage my work schedule with my class schedule, making me question my decision to pursue both school and a job at the same time, I was afforded the chance to analyze the court room environment, experience the goings-on of a law office, and strengthen my legal research and writing skills, while my classmates were seeing the law from the confines of the classroom.
A. Job Interviews: Work Experience Made the Difference
Prior to the 2010 summer, I had the overwhelming privilege of receiving multiple summer job offers from both sides of the criminal justice system, and I owe it all to working during law school.
Before coming to law school, it was my dream to be a public defender so that I could help others (pardon the cliché). I wound up joining the legal aid volunteer organization at my law school, which lead to an internship at a local public defender’s office. By working at the local public defender’s office, I was able to experience the constant ups and downs that are rampant in criminal defense field: the heavy workload, the barrage of clients that are more often than not dissatisfied with your work, and the immense pressure placed on your shoulders by not only your clients but yourself as well.
The experience ultimately paid off for me in a big way when I interviewed for a position as an intern with a federal defender office in the southeast. During the interview process, the interviewer asked me several questions about my experience at the local public defender’s office. Thanks to having worked during my 1L year, I was able to talk about my experience with interviewing clients in prison (and at the office), sitting in and observing the courtroom process, and researching legal issues and questions for the attorneys in the office. The interviewer seemed impressed that I spent my entire first year working in an actual legal environment, especially in a public defender office. A month later I found that the interview had been very impressed when I was offered a job with the federal defender’s office. I have no doubt that without the work experience I gained while working as a 1L I might not have had the option of pursuing a summer job with the federal defenders.
Not only did I receive a job offer from the federal defender’s office, I also received a job offer from a federal prosecutor’s office. Before interviewing, I was unsure of how my experience on the criminal defense side of the law would affect my chances of getting a job offer. As it turns out, my experience on the criminal defense side of the law during my 1L year wound up helping me get a job offer with the federal prosecutor’s office.
During the interview, the interviewers seemed very impressed that my legal work experience was in the field of criminal defense. All throughout the interview my experience at the public defender office seemed to creep into the conversation–and every time it did my chances of getting a job offer seemed to increase (at least in my mind). Two weeks after the interview I received a call from the federal prosecutor’s office offering me a job for the summer of 2010. I firmly believe that without my work experience during my first year of law school, I would not have been in a position to receive the job offers that I did.
My hope is that other law students will realize the unique opportunities that working during law school can offer and take advantage of those opportunities–it might just end up in a job offer (and in this economy every law student needs all the help he or she can get).
Not only has working during law school provided me with multiple job offers, it also allowed me to meet my current mentor. One of my favorite law school work experiences was being asked to research a controversial appeals case being handled by the public defender’s office during my first year of law school. The experience not only offered me my first chance to work on an actual case, but it also gave me the chance to work on a case with one of my current mentors, “Ben.” Although I was only able to work with Ben for a few months, Ben went above and beyond as a mentor–showing me around the courthouse, allowing me to work with him directly on the appeals case, leading me through the courtroom process as he worked on his multitude of cases, and so much more.
My work experience during law school may have been pressure filled, but without the experience I wouldn’t have the current guidance and support of a mentor currently working in the field. As I begin the search for permanent employment after the bar exam (look for that blog in the future), I already have a leg up on other potential employees, I have personal contacts, and in the current job market “who you know” may provide that tie-breaker between yourself and your just-as-qualified competition.
Contributed by Jody L. Sellers
*Jody Sellers is a current 3L law student, who between his limited free time, writes reflective blogs offering insight into the law school experience. Whether it’s mundane life experiences or opinions about the legal world, you’ll probably find it in one of his random, often short-and-to-the-point blogs.
Law firm and empty offices – this is the norm now. Don’t make your empty law offices storage depots. Empty law offices mean lost cash-flow. If your firm is using empty offices to store old files, office supplies or furniture, your law firm is in a lose-lose situation. Simply, you are paying a certain amount of dollars per square foot to your landlord or to your mortgage holder for this space (if you own it). Sadly, there is little relief in the near future with this economy. Deal with your surplus space–subleasing and space sharing is your answer.
Advertising the surplus space has not worked. Where are viable subtenants? Because your law firm administrator may not necessarily have the experience of advertising surplus space or seeking compatible attorneys for subleasing, the file boxes, furniture and excess equipment continue to fill the surplus offices of your law firm. The answer is subleasing. Subleasing will mitigate the loss from surplus space. Your solution is to go to www.LawSpaceMatch.com where you will be able to quickly post your empty law offices where an attorney searching the web by his or her desired zip code, will find your post quickly and easily. Don’t miss out. Post your empty offices on www.LawSpaceMatch.com for a reasonable fee. Lawyers seeking a turn-key law office will contact you after locating your office through a detailed zip code search.
Print advertising is expensive, and it has not worked for you because it does not reach the target market at the time you need to fill your space. The internet is your inexpensive solution. Let www.LawSpaceMatch.com do the work for you…not your law firm administrator, managing partner, or an uninterested real estate broker. Move your files and furniture out of your unused offices today. Sublet or share unused space with lawyers seeking an office in your zip code.