Lawyers and Shared Office Space
In a bid to save money and to make the work process simpler, lawyers, as well as other professionals, have taken to sharing office space. They do not just share with co-workers, but with lawyers from other firms and with professionals from outside. There are advantages and drawbacks to this increasingly common practice of lawyers and shared office space.
Benefits of Shared Office Space
Most lawyers and other professionals share office space to reduce costs on everyday expenses like overheads. With remote working becoming increasingly common, offices are no longer the sole workplace. When resources are shared – not just the physical building and offices but also photocopiers, phone lines, internet connection, costs are reduced.
There is also a benefit to sharing human resources. Salaries are the most expensive single element of a business’ running costs. For two businesses to share an admin team can mean increased profit margin for both. If both businesses are run by the same person or people (for example, one is a law practice, the other in real estate), sharing resources is sensible.
Drawbacks of Shared Office Space
The practice of sharing office space is not forbidden under any professional conduct rules or guidance, but good practice certainly applies. Everything you do as a lawyer is bound to protect independence of practice, and the integrity of customer data. When offices are shared, there remains a risk to each of these things which could compromise your professional standing.
For example, lawyers representing separate businesses are not permitted to use joint letterheads. Similarly, external signs must not suggest that the lawyers work for the same practice; there is a high risk of solicitation which is strongly discouraged. This may be good reason for why you should share offices with non-lawyers, but this sets up other ethics problems such as client confidentiality and data security.
Practices That Could Disqualify You
Conflict of interest exists where there is risk of each lawyer taking adversaries in the same case. This has happened leading to disqualification of the respective lawyers. So long as there is no risk of such an event occurring (for example where one practices family law while the other is criminal law or contract law), this should not be an issue. Problems can occur when unassociated lawyers cover for each other when the other is out of office.
Always consult the ethics guidelines for both practices and industries. So long as such care is taken, office sharing can be mutually beneficial.
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