Last year, I wrote about the thing that gets me yelled at almost as much as when I rail on SEO and tech hacks — when I dare to mention that practicing lawyers looking to build their practice should have an office.
Your practice may be “built.” You may be getting more calls than you can handle. You may be a low-volume lawyer that only needs/wants a couple cases a month, and your referral sources take care of that for you.
But I’m talking about the rest of the profession. The debt-laden, the hungry, the ones still trying to get to that place where they have the types of clients and cases they want.
This is not a post about the merits of having an office, it’s about when it’s time to move — to something nicer, closer to the business center of town, or closer to the courthouse you are in three days a week. If you’ve already decided that having an office is the worst thing you could ever imagine because “no one has an office anymore,” stop reading here and go yell at that law dean, or Wallerstein, or my boyfriend Elie….
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a few lawyers about moving offices. Some space opened in my office due to a lawyer needing more space that I don’t have. In speaking to these lawyers, I discovered some issues that caused me to wonder what lawyers are thinking when they decide to make a move.
If you have an office, you spend a lot of time there. People visit, whether potential clients, actual clients, vendors, or solicitors. You may be a great estate planning lawyer in your city, but for those who don’t know that, when they see your crappy office that’s a mess and in a part of town that makes them hope their car will be there when they leave, that’s their first impression.
It may not be that you have a crappy office in a bad part of town that causes you to want to move. It may be that you need more space, or are in a location where there’s not many other lawyers, or your landlord is a jerk.
The thing I keep hearing is: “I want to move to a better place, but do not want to pay more than I do now.”
Great idea. Just like when you want to move to a new house, in a neighborhood with better schools and parks. “Just keep the rent the same.” That works.
I know, you can’t afford another $300 a month because then you have to cut back on some of your spending, or take home a little less for a while, or God forbid, reduce what you spend on internet marketing.
Try thinking of the “office space” as “marketing space.” Understand that being around different lawyers, in a different part of town, or having to spend less time in the car getting to the courthouse, are all things that can make you money. The increased rent is merely an investment, not an expense.
It’s not just that the aesthetics are better — that clients will be impressed with better floors, nicer elevators, or a bigger office — it’s that if you are in a better location, you have a better opportunity to build your practice because you are in an environment of like-minded people. Having your office downtown and being able to walk down the street and say hello to two lawyers on your walk to lunch may get you a phone call with someone wanting to make you their lawyer. Waiting in line at the drive-thru for some heart attack causing tacos down the street from your suburban office can save you a few bucks a month.
If your goal is to build your practice, then your efforts must be geared towards those things that will help you build your practice. Trying to save money on the places you spend the most time, and where your clients make decisions, will only save you money. It will never make you money.
Brian Tannebaum will never “get on board” at the advice of failed lawyers who were never a part of the past but claim to know “the future of law.” He represents clients, every day, in criminal and lawyer discipline cases without the assistance of an Apple device, and usually gets to work (in an office, not a coffee shop) by 9 a.m. No client has ever asked if he’s on Twitter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.