When You Need an Office Now

By Debra Bruno

October 14, 2016


Solo attorneys often have a professional dilemma: where to set up shop. Work out of your home and you might be considered as unprofessional. Hold a client meeting in a local coffee shop, and the noise could drive you out. 

But hunting for an office to lease—finding a good location, buying desks, tables, chairs, and copy machines, arranging for phone lines and Internet access, then hiring the support staff to answer the phones and call for help when the copier breaks down—is a different sort of headache. 

Increasingly, attorneys in D.C. are turning to a concept called "office on demand." In other words, they're finding a place to work undisturbed, meet clients, get mail, and make copies. Carr Workplaces, for instance, offers various options, including a bricks-and-mortar setup with everything a traditional law office has, as well as a co-working place for those who like the camaraderie and vibe of a more open setting. 

While many professionals today telecommute or set up wherever they can get Internet access, lawyers often find they need something a little more permanent looking, both for professional appearances and for their own work focus. 

With a flexible work place, attorneys don't have to put up a lot of upfront money for furniture, phone lines, and Internet access, says Gelda Maule, general manager for Carr Workplaces' Metro Center office. One monthly fee "takes all the guessing out," she says.

It's a popular choice: Carr has 18 offices in the D.C. metro area, with spaces that range from 100 separate offices and three conference rooms to both larger and smaller set-ups.  

Frederic Schwartz has been practicing appellate and employment law on his own for 40 years. He no longer needs a legal assistant nor the accoutrements of a large office, he says. "Nor do I need to impress my clients, since they only care about winning." When his last leased space ran out, he decided to look for a place that offered "a carefree existence." 

"I need a place to write my briefs and pleadings without having to worry about anything else," Schwartz says. He uses his Metro Center Carr Workplaces office full time and often comes in on weekends. Sara Kropf also likes the traditional feel without the headache of setting up her own office. After she left a larger firm four years ago, she looked for something to help her transition to her own office. 

And since she handles white collar criminal defense and civil litigation with clients who might seek a certain level of privacy, she asked Carr Workplaces for an office with frosted glass, which they provided. 

She also says she likes the option of reserving one of the conference rooms for a meeting or a deposition. "I'm not scrambling for space," she says. 

There are also options for more temporary arrangements. International tax and estate planning lawyer Chris Klug uses a Carr Workplaces office two days a month, which gives him the chance to figure out his next move, he says. He left his most recent firm in early July and still isn't certain whether he'll be setting up shop on his own or joining a new firm. 

In the meantime, he can use a Carr Workplaces office for client meetings, large copying tasks, and depositions.  

And then there are the spaces for those who like something more open, like the WeWork spaces popping up around the country. There's also Hera Hub, a coworking workspace for women with a spa theme, including aromatic candles, running water, live plants, and standing desks. 

Lawyer Nakia Gray, who uses Hera Hub, says that since most of her intellectual property and business development work is online, she likes the idea of spending most of her time at a table in the midst of other professionals. If Gray needs privacy, she can book a conference room.  

She's usually in Hera Hub's Friendship Heights location two to three days a week and works from home the other days. She also volunteers every two weeks to be a "legal guru" to the community, which means free 10-minute consultations to others at Hera Hub.  

"More often than not," she says, she gets business from those meetings. 

"The landscape is changing so much," she adds. "The way we operate nowadays is just different." 

Piqued your interest? Join the D.C. Bar Practice Management Advisory Service on October 27 for the free program "Office On-Demand for the 21st Century Law Firm," part of PMAS' Small Firm Lunch and Learn series. The event will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at Carr Workplaces, 1001 G Street NW.

Debra Bruno is a freelance journalist who writes for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Washingtonian Magazine. She lived in China for three years and has worked at Legal Times, Roll Call, and other publications.