Monthly Archives: June 2011

Lawyers Sharing Space – Benefits and Responsibilities

lawbooks.jpgAtlanta lawyers are subleasing with other lawyers and entering into law space sharing arrangements. The Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct do not prohibit attorneys from sharing office space. With law firms downsizing, the empty law office space entices new lawyers into a sublet deal. Know the benefits and responsibilities.
Benefits of law space sharing include: (i) the occasional consult or assisting with certain legal issues which may arise; (ii) reduction of overhead costs; and (iii) potential referrals for legal work in each lawyers’ area of practice. While lawyers seek to share rent, copier costs, internet costs, legal research expenses, lawyers must use extra care about maintaining the confidences and secrets of clients. For instance, if the lawyers sharing law space retain a joint receptionist who performs legal tasks, she or he should be advised to maintain confidentiality of the clients and keep files for the clients in a separate work area. Ethical issues can be triggered by sloppy administrative practices. All confidential information gained in the professional relations with a client, unless the client consents after consultation are required by the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct (Rule 1.6) to be protected. The duty of confidentiality shall continue after the client-lawyer relationship has terminated (Rule 1.6(e)). So the files must be kept separate even after the case or matter is completed. The bottom line: lawyers or law firms should not fail to take adequate measures to protect the client’s confidential information of each space-sharing lawyer.
Lawyers who are dual professionals also must make clear to the public the separate nature of their legal and other businesses, and should take measures to protect client confidentiality. The dual professional may be required to keep separate phone numbers, letterhead, books, records, and files. The lawyer should take special care to keep separate the provision of law-related and legal services in order to minimize the risk that the client/customer will assume that the law-related services are legal services. (See Georgia Rule 5.7, comment (8)).
Each state may have a specific position regarding the dual professional practicing in one office. For instance, Colorado takes a stronger view, stating that it is easier to avoid confusion if the second occupation is not conducted from the legal office. The basis for Colorado’s opinion is that risks such as improper solicitation are increased when one office is used.
Whatever the commissions ultimately decide, space-sharing is an important concern for many lawyers and can be maneuvered easily if thoughtful steps are taken prior to conducting the business of law. Lawyers should always remember that the essence of the Rules of Professional Conduct is based on communication with the clients.
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See Also: You Can’t Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop, Atlanta Lawyers Sublease Space, The Need for Law Space Match, Law Firms with Unused Offices

Sandra Day O’Connor Shared Law Office Space

sandradayoconnor.jpgEven graduating third in your class from Stanford Law does not guarantee a credible position at a law firm. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor found out just this upon graduating from Stanford. Rather than accepting the legal secretarial positions that various firms offered her, she opted to start a private law practice. In order to keep costs down, Justice O’Connor opened an office in Phoenix, Arizona, and shared law space with another solo practicing lawyer. In doing this, she was able to carry on a solo practice while cutting fixed real estate costs.
Although made upon necessity in Justice O’Connor’s case, the decision to share office space with other lawyers is made by a significant amount of legal solo practitioners. The reasoning behind this decision can be brought down to pure economic principle; it benefits all involved to reduce fixed costs in an office space, and law office subletting does just this. In today’s uncertain economy, fixed costs are a large concern, and their reduction allows lawyers to dedicate more funds towards other aspects needed to improve and maintain their practice.
In addition, the sharing of law space allows young independent lawyers fresh from law school to surround themselves with like-minded solo practitioners. These co-tenants represent a source of advice, support, and potential client referrals that are essential components for the success of one just entering the field of law.
Today, these benefits are becoming increasingly more important, as the unstable economy and job market have made solo practice a more attractive, and in some instances, necessary option. Thus, a service allowing Atlanta solo practitioners to connect and share law space is something that is incredibly valuable both now and looking forward. Elaine M. Russell, a lawyer practicing corporate law in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, Georgia saw this need and created LawSpaceMatch.com. This free service allows Atlanta lawyers to quickly and easily create attorney profiles and post empty office space in all parts of Atlanta.
Notes: See Also: Law Firms with Unused Offices, You Can’t Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop , The Business of Law

You Can’t Run a Law Practice from a Coffee Shop

LawOffice2.JPGBeing a solo practitioner can sometimes be overwhelming, particularly for those who have never done it before. Among the many different decisions that a prospective solo practitioner needs to make is office space for the law firm. Because so much of the practice of law has become electronic, some solo practitioners have come to the conclusion that they can successfully practice law without dedicated office space.
However, just about anyone who has attempted this sort of arrangement will tell you, having functional and reasonably appealing office space is a very worthwhile investment. While it is true that you can work on a letter or brief from a laptop at the local coffee shop or a room at the law school or your converted garage space, these types of arrangements are typically inefficient. Functionality is the key to efficiency, and it is hard to replace a well-designed office space with reliable copying, scanning, and other equipment, high-speed internet connection, and a dedicated space you can meet with clients and potential witnesses. Nothing screams a lack of credibility to potential clients and opposing counsel more than an attorney that does not have a dedicated office address. Meeting with a client in a home-office leaves the client wondering why the attorney is not profitable enough to afford office space. Having opposing counsel send documents to a post office box opposed to an office address indicates you do not have the resources to adequately handle cases. In short, there is a reason why virtually all successful attorneys invest in adequate law office space to support their practice.
Moreover, particularly in light of the current economic trends, there is very good space to be had at a bargain. Opportunities to sub-let “Class A” space at a discount abound. And while you may not have your name over the door as a sub-tenant, you will have access to functional space, adequate equipment, and respectable surroundings. If you are planning to run a law practice, finding good Atlanta office space at a reasonable price is well worth the investment.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created LawSpaceMatch.com, a website dedicated to helping law firms with open office space and solo practitioners connect with each other. This free service matches lawyers seeking to sublet office space with law firms possessing unused office space across the country. Elaine is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Her office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
Contributed by: William B. Ney
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See Also: Atlanta’s March Unemployment Report Offers Hope for Region , Don’t Count On Your Real Estate Broker When You Need a Sublease of Your Office Space, Law Firms with Unused Offices

Landlords Make Room for New Tenants, Provide Relief for Existing Tenants

May 2011 Landlords post pic.jpg The soft real estate market in Atlanta and around other big cities across the United States has some law firms signing on to new office space. While this may seem counter-intuitive due to the continuing economic unease in the marketplace, there are many reasons why this is the perfect time to sign on to new a lease. In fact, tenants are not the only ones taking advantage of the current economic climate by taking on new commitments. Some developers are taking on new building projects while construction costs are low and subsidies can still be found.
The biggest driver behind the surge in leasing may be the fact that landlords are keenly interested in keeping their tenants. These landlords, who are often large developers, have to remain flexible to retain their clients and boost occupancy rates. With large volumes of space to lease, re-stacking of office space is becoming commonplace in large buildings. This reorganization of floor space can benefit both the landlord and the client. For existing clients who have downsized their workforce, a consolidation of space between floors can be necessary. For starters, unoccupied office space can become a financial drain on the company. Restructuring an existing lease agreement can result in a lower lease rate and/or additional perks, such as additional parking or remodeling of the new space. But there is another reality that can affect the bottom line of any organization that has cut back on personnel. It is the fact that the psychological effects of working in a vacant landscape can be devastating on the remaining employees. So the client who consolidates office space can dramatically improve the company’s bottom line, by cutting costs and by improving morale.
The landlord also benefits considerably by allowing existing tenants to consolidate space. Besides helping the tenant “right-size” into the proper space, consolidation makes room for new clients who may have very specific requirements. These requirements may include a particular view of the city, a preference for the top floor or the need to restrict elevator traffic to that space. For many companies, especially banks and law firms, real estate costs are the second highest expenditure after personnel. Making that investment wisely is important and a good landlord-tenant relationship is critical.
In 2010, Elaine M. Russell found a way to help law firms with open office space and solo law practitioners by creating www.LawSpaceMatch.com. This free service matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine’s office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.
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See Also: The Need for Law Space Match, Unexpected Benefits Come From Office Sharing, Atlanta Law Space Vacancies