Business Strategy, Digital Marketing, SEO

By Postali

Coworking Space or Traditional Office?

Determining the physical space in which you’ll operate your law firm is a big decision. At Postali, we often consult with attorneys on opening their first office or expanding their firm to serve new markets. You may wonder, “what does my physical office location have to do with my law firm’s marketing?”

It matters much more than you think.

One of the basic principles of business is to keep your fixed operating costs as low as possible. For that reason, many attorneys are tempted to make decisions about where to locate their office based on rent costs alone. While rent is an important consideration factor, it’s not the only one.

The truth is that your physical space will influence many of your firm’s business decisions, including your digital marketing strategy, overall client experience and your branding efforts. It also will affect your staffing decisions and your ability to attract and retain talent at your firm.

We encourage the attorneys we work with to take a holistic approach and consider all costs associated with their law firm’s office location. For example, many attorneys consider an office farther away from their city’s downtown area to save on rent costs, and we usually will recommend against it (unless your target audience lived and works outside of the city center).

While an office in the suburbs may have cheaper rent, it’s not without drawbacks. If your firm’s associates have to travel to the courthouse often and you reimburse for miles, this will add additional operating costs and take up more of your associates’ valuable time.

It’s also likely that your law firm office will not show up for many city-specific Google searches (more on that later), which could be costing you clients. A downtown office may seem like the more expensive choice at a glance, but in many cases is a better option for the long-term success of your firm.

The same concept holds true for coworking spaces. At a glance, the rent costs savings make these office setups seem like a no-brainer for the modern law firm.

Why pay monthly rent for your own private office when you can rent a coworking space for a fraction of the cost?

However, when you look at the bigger picture, a coworking space may not be the best decision for your business.

Making the Case for a Traditional Law Firm Office

As legal marketers, we often stress the importance of staying in-the-know on marketing and business development trends and evolving your law firm’s strategy accordingly. We are always encouraging the lawyers we work with to think differently, try new things and embrace the changes the legal field is experiencing.

However, when it comes to office locations, there are many benefits to having a traditional office space that a coworking space simply doesn’t provide. If you’re considering which type of office structure to use for your firm, don’t ignore these important considerations.

1. Local SEO

For most law firms, organic search will be the primary driver of traffic to your website and a crucial means to attract new clients to your firm. We know that when people are in need of legal services, they look to Google for guidance on law firms in their area. Your law firm’s local SEO strategy will depend largely on your office location.

You want your law firm office to show in Google’s “map pack,” which displays local business locations that meet the searcher’s needs.

Google-Map-Pack-Image

It’s important to understand what it takes to get your law firm in one of the coveted spots in the map pack. The first step is properly setting up a Google My Business listing for your law firm’s office location.

Virtual offices, or offices without a physical USPS address violate Google’s guidelines on representing your business and therefore, are unlikely to appear in local search results. If you attempt to set up a listing for your virtual office, it’s likely that your law firm will be penalized and your listing may be removed.

If you have a coworking space and occupy it during your business hours, it is possible to set up a Google My Business listing. You must physically occupy the space, be able to receive mail and have a unique phone number. However, it’s likely that other businesses who share your coworking space will do the same. This can create confusion as Google’s algorithms try to accurately associate each business with a physical USPS address. We have found that businesses who share a similar or the same address often do not perform as well in local search as those who have their own dedicated office space.

Lastly, proximity to the searcher is a factor in how Google displays map results. When you perform a search for a local business (such as “injury attorney near me”), you’ll often notice that the results display business listings that are close to your location.

When you have a coworking space, you cannot control the location and may not be as visible in search results. For law firms that operate in a city, we continuously see the best results for private offices spaces that are close to the central downtown area or the area in which most of your target clients are likely to be searching.

2. The Client Perception & Experience

Your office space will play a significant role in the experience that clients have with your firm. First, you will want to create an environment where clients feel comfortable discussing confidential information. Many coworking spaces are designed with open workspaces and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. While this may work for most businesses, it’s important to understand that your clients need to feel comfortable.

With criminal defense, family law and other practice areas, clients often will want to keep their legal matters private. Sharing a space with other attorneys or other businesses may make their experience uncomfortable.

Another potential drawback to a coworking space is the inability to have your own receptionist, or even a phone number that is truly yours. Most coworking spaces will have a shared receptionist who greets visitors and may even handle phone calls. Additionally, a coworking space provides less opportunity to really make the space your own.

Conference rooms and meeting spaces is another factor to consider. A coworking space may charge extra for conference room use, and the space may not always be available.

If you occupy a coworking space, it’s unlikely that your law firm’s name will be displayed outside the building, which means you don’t have the opportunity to attract new clients who see your business while walking or driving by. You also may not be able to display your firm name on the door, and you have less control over the décor and furniture. When you have your own office space, you can display your law firm’s brand and create a unique experience for your clients.

3. Your Firm’s Growth

Even if you are a solo practitioner, you will want to keep your firm’s growth in mind when selecting an office space. If you utilize a coworking space, it’s likely that you and your assistant will share one office. This can create a distracting work environment, especially if you both plan to take phone calls in the office.

If you hire new associates, you’ll likely need to rent additional space in a coworking office. That means that with each new hire, your fixed costs will increase. There is more flexibility when you rent your own office space.

Having your own space also allows you to create perks that will help you attract talent. You may want to offer your associates free coffee, or you may want to select an office building that also has a daycare or gym. A coworking space may not come with free parking, so that’s another factor to consider when you think about the experience your associates will have working for your firm.

4. Technology & Equipment

It’s important to ensure the space you work in has all of the necessary equipment. For attorneys, it’s important to have dedicated phone numbers and voicemail. Most coworking spaces are equipped with everything a business needs – such as printers and high-speed internet access. If you need to fax, you may not have the right equipment in a coworking space to do so.

While renting a shared desk space is cheaper than a private office, this isn’t realistic for most attorneys. You need to ensure you have a safe, secure space for your confidential files.

Do you work longer hours? A coworking space may have limited hours of operation, or you may need to pay extra for 24-hour access.

When you have your own office, you do need to invest in the proper technology and equipment, but you can ensure that each associate has what they need to do their job, even if that involves a late night at the office.

When Would a Home Office or Coworking Space Work?

Every law firm has different needs. While a traditional office space offers many benefits to most types of legal practices, there are cases in which a coworking space office can work. Coworking spaces are great options to consider in the following cases:

  • If you are an established solo practitioner with a large existing client base, a coworking space may offer a more affordable option and keep your operating costs lower.
  • If you are an attorney working for a larger firm but need to work remotely, a coworking space or home office may be a good option, so long as your firm allows it.
  • If you split your time between multiple locations and need a place to meet clients outside of your firm’s main office, a coworking space is a great option. Many offer flexible leasing options for professionals who only need a space a few days a month.
  • If your primary source of new client generation is word of mouth or reputation-based marketing.
  • If you really cannot afford to rent your own space, consider coworking. While there are many benefits to renting your own office space, we also would never recommend that you incur a cost that will put your business at risk. You have to be realistic about your firm’s operations and what you can afford.

It’s important to think carefully about opening or expanding your law office. You also need to consider all costs involved, including hard costs like parking and equipment, as well as other costs such as client and associate experience.

Your office should reflect your unique brand as a law firm and provide an exceptional client experience as well as allow room for your firm to grow. If you’d like to discuss your law firm’s growth strategy or need help selecting an office location that works best for you, call us at (800) 667-3612 – we’re here to talk.