Get new clients for your firm by opening satellite offices using inexpensive virtual office rentals or sublets in shared law office spaces.
Kate is a trust and estates lawyer on Long Island and the bulk of her new business comes from referrals that she’s earned by providing great service to her clients. Most of Kate’s clients commute to Manhattan for work.
Kate’s client, Nick, a Manhattan investment banker, has been bragging to his coworker Brian about the bang-up job Kate did setting up an estate plan for his young family. Nick is a high-income professional (as is Brian). Impressed, and also needing estate planning services, Brian asks Nick for Kate’s information.
Problem is, Kate’s office is on Long Island and Brian lives in Westchester. Brian would work with an attorney in Manhattan, but doesn’t see the sense in working with a Long Island lawyer. If Kate had a satellite office in the city, she wouldn’t have lost Brian’s business.
Advances in technology notwithstanding, in many ways, law is still a very local business. Ethics rules permit you to take on legal matters anywhere in the state, but if your prospective clients perceive your office as being inconvenient to them, then you’re unnecessarily missing out on new business.
In reality, there’s no reason that Kate couldn’t have handled Brian’s matter, other than Brian’s own perception that Kate’s office was inconvenient for him. But when it comes to securing new business, client perception is everything.
Of all practice areas, plaintiff’s lawyers have long ago discovered that having offices in multiple locations, even in the same city, means that they are less likely to miss out on lucrative contingency cases because of the “convenience factor.” See: Virtual Lawyers Dish: Strategies for Success.
Other lawyers, especially those in B2C type practices (matrimonial, immigration, employment, criminal, T&E) could take a lesson from their personal injury colleagues: additional office locations means more cases, and it should be a meaningful part of your firm’s marketing strategy.
The awesome thing is that by taking advantage of inexpensive virtual office rental, you can secure a premium location for a monthly cost that’s less than the cost of a decent dinner for two.
Here are six reasons why your firm should consider expanding to new office locations:
1. It’s cheap, so there’s no reason to not do it
For most lawyers, there’s no need to spend a fortune on physical office space for a second office. They won’t likely spend much time there. A good virtual office that’s in a convenient location with conference rooms, desk space or offices rentable by the hour is more than adequate.
This can either be in a shared law office suite, executive suite, or even at another law firm’s office.
A basic package shouldn’t cost more than $100/month (plus conference room rental fees when you need it) and the agreements are typically month-to-month. Most vendors of virtual office services sell discounted bundles of conference room time that can be purchased if you know you’ll need regular conference room usage.
2. You may not even have to go there to get new business
Vendors of virtual office services typically have staff who can handle administrative work, and possibly even paralegal services for client intake, will signing ceremonies, or to simply collect paperwork for you.
Take Kate’s estate planning business and the clients who prefer to have their will signing in Manhattan. If Kate doesn’t want to make a special trip to the City, she could send copies of the documents needing signatures in advance with a copy of her script for the signing ceremony to virtual office staff. The paralegal can meet Kate’s clients, conduct the ceremony, and return the signed documents back to her. Kate checks in with her clients afterwards.
For the cost of two hours in a Manhattan parking garage, Kate saved a half-day of billable time, and has thrilled clients because she made the will signing easy for them.
The minimal additional cost can be built into pricing, and in exchange, your firm provides stellar customer service.
3. You can easily expand your professional network
For some attorneys, making a regular appearance in their satellite office may be necessary. If that’s the case, then schedule one or two mornings a month to be there, but also make arrangements to do some networking in advance and make a full day of it.
Start with the other lawyers in your suite. You can have the manager of the suite make the initial introductions, and branch out from there. Within a few months, you’ll have some new friends, and hopefully referral partners.
4. Get a leg up on the competition by making life easier for your clients
The bottom line is this: most clients have a hard time distinguishing one law firm from another.
Most clients don’t know the difference between a tier 1 law school or a tier 3 school, they are not impressed by the bar committees you chair, or that you worked in Big Law. But they do understand convenience.
Having a second office that is convenient to them says that you’ve taken the time to consider their needs.
5. Fully utilize your duel bar admission
It’s common practice for attorneys to sit for a second bar exam in a neighboring state. And the truth is that after passing the exam, most attorneys don’t know what to do with their second bar admission other than pay the fee every year to keep the license active.
Clever lawyers will put their second (or third) license to work for them by keeping a virtual office in the other jurisdiction. This can work particularly well if you live in the second jurisdiction; for example, if you live in New Jersey and work in New York. Just by virtue of your personal connections, it’s likely that New Jersey cases will find you.
With minimal extra effort, you may be able to build a nice little side practice, putting your hard-earned second bar license to work, and a $99 per month virtual office will help you do so without breaking the bank.
6. Give your suburban firm a city presence (or vice versa)
Frequently attorneys will start a practice in the suburbs of a major city, will do really well, and they either want to explore opportunities in the city or their practice starts to take them there. The opposite is often true to.
These firms will often find a virtual office solution to maintain a “city” presence, which will give them credibility with city clients that may only want to hire city law firms.
So whether you are trying to offer a more convenient service to your existing clients, or want to build a more prestigious image for your firm, there are many benefits to opening offices in different cities. By using inexpensive and low commitment virtual office rentals, any lawyer can easily test new legal markets. So what are you waiting for?
About the author:
Stephen Furnari is a self-employed corporate attorney and the founder of Law Firm Suites, an operator of coworking spaces for law firms in New York City and Annapolis, Maryland. Through Law Firm Suites, Stephen has helped dozens of attorneys launch and grow successful law practices. He is the author of several eBooks, including An Insider’s Guide to Renting the Perfect Law Office. Connect with Stephen on Twitter: @stephenfurnari.