Coworking for Lawyers: First Impressions

As I sit here, on a couch at IndyHall, a coworking space in Philadelphia, I’m watching someone make brownies. Not a typical law firm office activity… but, did I mention that there’s a kegerator next to me? Needless to say, that’s not a typical law firm office fixture. I’m here on a fact-finding mission of sorts. I’d like to determine whether lawyers can join the ranks of the coworking communities.

About Coworking

Unless you live in a forward-thinking metropolitan area like San Francisco, Austin, or (eh-hem) Philadelphia, coworking is a relatively new phenomenon. In general, coworking spaces attract writers, coders/developers, entrepreneurs, and visual artists. While each facility exudes its own personality, many share the same philosophies of collaboration, openness, community, and accessibility. Not only is a coworking space a working environment but, as Craig Baute writes, “[i]t’s a community of ambitious individuals [who] participate in discussions, share ideas, and build relationships.” Baute then lists common coworking community activities such as weekly lunch-ins for members, member led workshops, xTed Talks, Meetup groups, and launch parties.

Therefore, it may be easy to think of coworking spaces as more sophisticated Starbucks locations. In exchange for a little rent, you obtain a secure space where you can leave your laptop or desktop unattended, a kitchen where you can make brownies, albeit with a community of like-minded professionals who know that working alone sucks. Or, it may be easy to think of coworking spaces as casual versions of Regus or other similar rent-a-space solutions. Maybe tear down the walls, throw in a few toys, arcade games, or kegerators as decoration, and pump in a collaborative spirit. However, both of these descriptions fall short of what coworking really means and what coworking really offers.

As Alex Hillman, co-founder of IndyHall explains, “It’s really easy to look at us as space first, community second.” The benefit of coworking and what makes coworking unique derives from “the focus on community and social interactions first, and amenities second.”

So, where does this leave the ethical attorney (not an oxymoron)? Is the legal industry stranded on the outside looking in for fear of potential conflicts of interest or potential breaches of client confidentiality? Or,with the correct preventative measures, can lawyers also thrive in these collaborative environments?

…I hope so but I don’t know. I do know that I’m not at IndyHall to practice law. Therefore, I don’t need to worry about the ethical quandaries that coworking may present for lawyers. (I’m also pretty certain that any answer begins with the phrase, “it depends.”)

Nevertheless, I’d love to see more lawyers take advantage of coworking and share their experiences so that we – the legal industry – can join the ranks of the dilettantes. (I say dilettantes in a positive way.)

In my research, I found a few trailblazing lawyers who may be able to serve as resources. Perhaps coworking lawyers can share boilerplate language in retainer agreements or other tips on ethical coworking. (Note: The coworking community is all about sharing resources.)

To further explore this (serious) topic, our #LawJobChat in March will focus on coworking for lawyers. (Mark your calendars: March 31st, 9-10 pm EST.) We hope to have a panel that includes the voice of the coworking community (Alex Hillman, Co-Founder of IndyHall), practicing lawyers who use coworking spaces (John Koenig, Indigo Venture Law Offices), and practicing lawyers who can speak to the ethical aspects of coworking. (Brian Tannebaum? Carolyn Elefant? We’re looking at you!) Know anyone who would be interested? Tell ‘em to get in touch!

Miscellaneous things to think about:

1. Lawyers transact business at Starbucks, e.g., writing a brief there, meeting a client for coffee, etc. So long as they follow the professional rules of conduct, e.g., keep confidential documents confidential, why not a place with actual desks and a manager who gives you a tour of the place? Google Voice and other technologies allow you to bring your work phone wherever you are so you don’t need a receptionist. For client meetings, you can reserve private conference room space. Explain to clients the nature of coworking spaces, the precautions taken to ensure confidentiality in the collaborative environment, and greet them personally at the door when you have a meeting.

2. What about ethical walls within law firms? How do they apply to coworking spaces? Or, a step backwards, can their principles apply to coworking spaces? If coworking spaces allow lawyers, what warnings/compliance measures do the spaces need to take, if any? E.g., Should all lawyers be told what other lawyers are working there on a given day?

3. On the flip side, why should lawyers be a profession that deserves oversight by coworking facilities?

4. When law firms strive to create an atmosphere of collaboration and community, they may implement a firm-wide wiki, knowledge sharing application, or create a physical space within the law firm that fosters conversation. The firm, as an institution, reaps benefits. How is this different from the collaboration and community that occurs at coworking spaces?

5. ACPE 718/CAA 41 (pdf), the joint opinion by the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics and the Committee on Attorney Advertising, found that virtual offices are not bona fide offices under New Jersey law. Under the opinion’s reasoning, are coworking facilities bona fide offices? Do we want them to be?

Further reading:

Keeping Your Office-Sharing Arrangements Squeaky Clean under the Ethics Rules

More Solutions in Search of a Problem

Virtual Offices May Violate Ethics Rules, New Jersey Opinion Says

Model Rules of Professional Conduct

ABA Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions (pdf)

5 Signs Co-Working Might be for You

Lessons from #LawJobChat: @lancegodard on Legal Marketing

Way back in October, we hosted our 5th #LawJobChat and spoke with Lance Godard (@lancegodard), a legal marketing professional and business development consultant.

Lance is Principal at The Godard Group where he consults with lawyers and law firms on business development, B2B communications, strategic planning, and social media.  He’s also an active member of the Legal Marketing Association.  Finally, he is the force behind @22Tweets, a project through which lawyers may tell their stories over Twitter.  For those who are unfamiliar with the project, think of it this way: @22Tweets is Fresh Air and Lance Godard is Terry Gross (but male).

Lance spent over fifteen years at Jones Day, one of the world’s largest law firms, where he worked on international business development, communications, and management.  He specialized in helping the firm open new offices abroad.

When we spoke with him, we asked about how business development relates to one’s law career.  We asked when lawyers should start thinking about business development and how they should approach the subject at interviews.

It was interesting that this was the quietest #LawJobChat we hosted so far.  Perhaps it was due to Game 2 of the World Series.  Or, as Lance put it (liberally using quotations), “It’s like talking to a 7th grade class about sex.  Everyone has questions but no one wants to raise their hands.”  I think Lance’s characterization is pretty on point.

Topic

Business Development, Legal Marketing, When & How

Moderators

Amanda Ellis (@aellislegal) & Melissa Sachs (@mjsq)

Guest Co-Host

1.  Lance Godard (@lancegodard) – Principal at The Godard Group; Member at Large – Board of Directors, Legal Marketing Association – Ohio Chapter; Moderator/Founder @22Tweets

Transcript (copied & pasted from What the hashtag?!)

All times are Pacific Time

1:00 am aellislegal: Welcome to #LawJobChat! Tonight we’re discussing the intersection of business development & your job search. #lawjobchat
1:01 am aellislegal: We selected this topic because we are seeing more firms look to hire attorneys (including associates) with portable business #lawjobchat
1:02 am aellislegal: We decided to invite a business dev expert to offer tips about how, when associates should dev business, including biz plan #lawjobchat
1:02 am aellislegal: Our guest co-host/expert is @lancegodard! Lance, thanks for joining us! Tell us a bit about your background #lawjobchat
1:04 am lancegodard: Thank you very much @aellislegal @mjsq for having me! #lawjobchat
1:04 am lancegodard: I did international business development & marketing for an AmLaw 10 firm for 18 years (Paris, Hong Kong, US) #lawjobchat
1:04 am lancegodard: Consulting for past 2 (as of next Mon), working w/ lawyers & firms to set BD / mktg objectives & develop plans for meeting them #lawjobchat
1:05 am mjsq: @lancegodard congratulations on your 2 year mark! #lawjobchat #lawjobchat
1:06 am aellislegal: and, I bet many of our chat participants have read your @22twts! Can you tell others what @22twtsis? #lawjobchat
1:07 am lancegodard: For those of you who don?t know, 22 Tweets (@22Twts on Twitter) are live interviews of lawyers I do on Twitter #lawjobchat
1:07 am lancegodard: It started as an experiment to explore Twitter as a comms channel, and really took off. I?ve talked to more than 80 lawyers now #lawjobchat
1:08 am lancegodard: They?re great fun to do and (I hope) a great way for lawyers to tell their stories on Twitter, stories that clients like to hear #lawjobchat
1:08 am OreLawPracMgmt: RT @mjsq: 30 minutes until #LawJobChat re: legal marketing & business development w/ @lancegodard! It’s going to be a good one!!
1:09 am aellislegal: I think @22twts is a great way to find lawyers to follow – esp if a lawyer or law student is new to Twitter, looking to connect #lawjobchat
1:10 am aellislegal: Follow @22twts for updates on @lancegodard‘s upcoming interviews with lawyers #lawjobchat
1:11 am aellislegal: Q1 @lancegodard, when stating your background, you mentioned “business development” and “marketing” – is there a difference? #lawjobchat
1:12 am lancegodard: Next week we interview @PriyaLawyer and the week after @paulrubell #22Twts #Lawjobchat
1:12 am lancegodard: Q1 Absolutely. Biz dev=identifying your targets: people / companies / etc in a position to give you business or help you get it #lawjobchat
1:13 am UTLawCSO: RT @aellislegal: …@22twts is a great way to find lawyers to follow-esp if…law student is new to Twitter, looking to connect #lawjobchat
1:13 am lancegodard: Q1 Marketing = tactics for reaching with those targets: publications, websites, meetings, social events, etc. #lawjobchat
1:16 am aellislegal: Q2 @lancegodard do lawyers need a biz dev plan AND mktg strategies? Are these separate “documents”? #lawjobchat
1:18 am lancegodard: Q2 Yes and yes. Biz plan is ?who what why?: who are potential clients, what are opps for work, why you best candidate for work #lawjobchat
1:19 am lancegodard: Q2 Mktg plan is the how: the way you’re going to communicate with those potential clients so they know what you bring to table. #lawjobchat
1:20 am aellislegal: Q3 @lancegodard Excellent! So, lawyers need (1) biz plan and (2) mktg plan. Which should come first or does it matter? #lawjobchat
1:20 am lancegodard: Q2 But doesn’t have to be formal. ID your potential clients, why they should be, and how you will reach them. Write it down #lawjobchat
1:21 am aellislegal: @lancegodard Good info – Biz Plan and Mktg Plan don’t have to be formal but should be in writing #lawjobchat
1:22 am lancegodard: Q3 Biz plan needs to come first: you need to set goals / objectives / targets before you decide which tactics work best for each #lawjobchat
1:23 am aellislegal: Q4 @lancegodard When should a lawyer create a biz plan? i.e., 1st year of practice, 3rd year of practice? #lawjobchat
1:25 am lancegodard: Q4 As soon as they can?. It?s a question of not waiting for good things to come your way, of being responsible for your success #lawjobchat
1:25 am lancegodard: Q4 If you know what you want, why not go thru discipline of figuring out who will buy your services & how you will reach them? #lawjobchat
1:27 am lancegodard: Q4 Although things may change at start of career, writing down a plan doesn’t mean it’s written in stone. So earlier is better #lawjobchat
1:27 am reneefishman: @aellislegal chiming in to #lawjobchat: biz plan comes 1st; mktg plan is part of biz plan
1:28 am aellislegal: Q4 cont @lancegodard So, a 1st year construction lit associate could identify industry orgs to join, key contacts n constrn ind? #lawjobchat
1:30 am aellislegal: Q4 cont @lancegodard And, then const lit assoc could outline key mtgs for the orgs, lunch dates w/developers, etc as mktg plan? #lawjobchat
1:30 am lancegodard: Q4 Absolutely. And the people in the orgs to meet. And maybe what she hopes to gain from knowing those pple & being in that org #lawjobchat
1:31 am aellislegal: Nice thought – biz plan as objectives and mktg = to do steps RT reneefishman biz plan comes 1st; mktg plan is part of biz plan #lawjobchat
1:32 am lancegodard: Q4 (slow fingers) yes, but before mktg plan she needs to think about the “who what why”: who to meet, what they bring her (cont) #lawjobchat
1:33 am aellislegal: @lancegodard Ha! No worries, Tweetchat is sometimes slow refreshing!! #lawjobchat
1:34 am aellislegal: @lancegodard Q4 – got it, biz plan obj first, then marketing steps #lawjobchat
1:34 am lancegodard: Q4 and why it makes sense for them to meet her, ie why they should talk to her and ultimately help her out #lawjobchat
1:34 am lawmgtguru: RT @aellislegal: We decided to invite a business dev expert to offer tips about how, when associates should dev business, including biz plan #lawjobchat
1:35 am aellislegal: Q5 @lancegodard How often should an associate review/revise objectives in biz plan? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? #lawjobchat
1:38 am lancegodard: Q5 Regularly…. Obviously depends on how much they hope to achieve. Ideally they’d spend some time looking at it every week #lawjobchat
1:39 am aellislegal: @lancegodard Excellent! #lawjobchat
1:39 am lancegodard: Q5 But that may not be realistic. I’ve seen lawyers with very detailed plans that drive much of their non-legal work time #lawjobchat
1:40 am aellislegal: Q6 @lancegodard What if the assoc is interviewing, firm doesn’t ask for biz plan, should assoc offer it? does firm size matter? #lawjobchat
1:40 am lancegodard: Q5 and others that have vague plans they check in on from time to time. But if there’s too much to do, it won’t get done #lawjobchat
1:41 am lancegodard: Q5 likewise, if there’s not much to do, it’s probably not really a biz dev and marketing plan…. #lawjobchat
1:42 am aellislegal: Q6 cont @lancegodard i.e., is it appropriate to offer biz plan to mid-small firm but not to large firm (or vice versa)? #lawjobchat
1:44 am lancegodard: Q6 I think the mid to small firms much more interested in the biz plan since those associates need to hit the ground running #lawjobchat
1:45 am lancegodard: Q6 but in all cases, whether or not associate brings out the plan, the discipline of having done the plan will improve interview #lawjobchat
1:46 am aellislegal: RT @lancegodard: the discipline of having done the plan will improve interview #lawjobchat
1:46 am aellislegal: @lancegodard I like that … having a plan improves the interview! #lawjobchat
1:46 am lancegodard: Q6 Being able to talk about law you want to practice, market for it, clients that need it etc will make you stand out #lawjobchat
1:48 am aellislegal: Q7 @lancegodard What’s the best way for associates to get started with creating a biz plan? what if firm doesn’t offer training? #lawjobchat
1:49 am PriyaLawyer: Looking forward to it RT @lancegodard: Next week we interview @PriyaLawyer and the week after @paulrubell #22Twts #Lawjobchat
1:49 am aellislegal: RT @lancegodard: Being able to talk about law you want to practice, market for it, clients that need it will make you stand out #lawjobchat
1:50 am lancegodard: Q7 Firms should include marketing and biz dev training in their associate dev programs (it?s in their best interest)…. #lawjobchat
1:52 am aellislegal: @lancegodard If firms don’t offer formal training, should associate find rainmaker ptr in firm/section and talk to him/her? #lawjobchat
1:52 am squirrelpants: On the marketing side, how do you find publications that fit your practice area & determine which ones to focus on? #lawjobchat
1:52 am lancegodard: Q7 But if no program associates can start by sharpening effective mktg skills, eg asking questions, listening to answers, etc #lawjobchat
1:53 am lancegodard: Q7 Doesn?t have to be in formal situations, but in everyday conversations they have with clients / peers / colleagues #lawjobchat
1:53 am aellislegal: @lancegodard Or, should the associate look outside the firm? Coach/trainer, publications to read for guidance? #lawjobchat
1:54 am lancegodard: Q7 If they need extra help, there are many things they can do. First, there exist a lot of good materials online now #lawjobchat
1:55 am lancegodard: Q7 eg templates, plans, articles, etc. Hiring a marketing coach / trainer always a possibility. Investing now will pay off later #lawjobchat
1:55 am aellislegal: @squirrelpants clarification – publication where you want to publish or publication to read? #lawjobchat
1:56 am aellislegal: Q7 @lancegodard Can you recommend any online sites as a starting point? #lawjobchat
1:59 am aellislegal: Finally, back to @22twts – is there a site where ppl can read past interviews? What if someone wants to be interviewed? #lawjobchat
2:00 am lancegodard: Q7 JD Supra law practice section is good, Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Portal, I have blog of mktg / BD reading recommendations #lawjobchat
2:01 am lancegodard: Q7 and there an ever-increasing number of LinkedIn groups that deal with law marketing and biz dev #lawjobchat
2:01 am aellislegal: Excellent! RT @lancegodard: JD Supra law practice sect is good, Larry Bodines Law Marketing Portal, my blog BD reading recs #lawjobchat
2:02 am lancegodard: Q7 Finally, I think that lawyers need to look to other industries for help and ideas, esp professional services but not only #lawjobchat
2:03 am mjsq: Q7 cont. I’d add on re: LinkedIn to join groups related to practice areas that may not be legally-oriented. #lawjobchat
2:03 am aellislegal: @lancegodard Thank you for chatting w/us! You’ve provided excellent biz dev tips to help associates stand out in interviews! #lawjobchat
2:04 am mjsq: Q7. e.g., an group related to energy but not only for energy lawyers #lawjobchat
2:05 am aellislegal: FYI, all – our Nov chat will be the 3rd Thurs (instead of last Thurs) b/c of T’giving — next chat is 11/18 at 9pm Eastern #lawjobchat
2:05 am lancegodard: @aellislegal you’re very welcome, it’s been a lot of fun! I could have gone on for another hour (or two)! #lawjobchat
2:06 am aellislegal: RT @squirrelpants: On the mktg side, how do you find publications that fit practice area & determine which ones to focus on? #lawjobchat
2:09 am lancegodard: I think it depends to a certain degree on the practice area, @squirrelpants, but Google search and blog search are very helpful #lawjobchat
2:11 am lancegodard: Once you find the universe of titles, it’s probably pretty easy to tell which are serious and can help you market & which cannot #lawjobchat
2:12 am lancegodard: You should also talk to clients and peers to see what they read; that can be a good guide #lawjobchat
2:13 am lancegodard: If you want to discuss further @squirrelpants, please feel free to DM me #lawjobchat
2:14 am lancegodard: I think there were a couple more unanswered #lawjobchat questions. First, you can read the 22 Tweets interviews at 22Tweets.com
2:15 am mjsq: @lancegodard, thank you for joining us. Take away point: Many job-seeking attys (entry & lats) would benefit w/ biz or mkt plan! #lawjobchat
2:16 am BetsyMunnell: #lawstudents/#lawyers–New to Twitter? @lancegodard has your back..RT @aellislegal: @22twts-great way 2 find lawyers to follow #lawjobchat
2:17 am lancegodard: The “DM me” goes for anyone who wants to discuss these points further. Biz dev & mktg can be daunting but they don’t have to be #lawjobchat
2:17 am BetsyMunnell: RT @lancegodard: First: Biz dev=identifying your targets: people/companies in position to give you business or help get it #lawjobchat
2:18 am BetsyMunnell: RT @lancegodard: AND..Marketing = tactics for reaching with those targets: publications, websites, meetings, social events, etc. #lawjobchat
2:20 am lancegodard: Thank you again to @mjsq and @aellislegal for having me on #lawjobchat. It’s a great forum for job-seeking lawyers!
2:21 am BetsyMunnell: More clarity! @lancegodard: Biz plan= ?who/what/why?: potential clients, work opps, why hire you & Mktg Plan=how to reach them #lawjobchat
2:24 am BetsyMunnell: Finding the right publications to read? RT @lancegodard: .depends ..degree on practice area but Google/blog search helpful #lawjobchat
2:25 am BaranCLE: Good stuff! RT @lancegodard Thank you again to @mjsq and @aellislegal for having me on #lawjobchat a great forum for job-seeking lawyers
2:26 am AdvertisingLaw: RT @BaranCLE: Good stuff! RT @lancegodard Thank you again to @mjsq and @aellislegal for having me on #lawjobchat a great forum for job-seeking lawyers
2:31 am BetsyMunnell: @aellislegal @lancegodard What a great #lawjobchat. You hit all the key points for young lawyers. Look forward to RT’ing Amanda’s summary!
2:32 am adrianlurssen: RT @BetsyMunnell @aellislegal @lancegodard What a great #lawjobchat. You hit all the key points for young lawyers…
2:36 am BetsyMunnell: Including JD Supra–critical resource! @adrianlurssen: RT @BetsyMunnell @aellislegal @lancegodardGreat #lawjobchat hit all the key points
2:42 am AdvertisingLaw: Thank you @mjsq for the invite! This is a great forum for job-seeking lawyers & lawyers generally. #LawJobChat // @lancegodard @aellislegal
3:02 am lancegodard: Thanks @BetsyMunnell @AdrianLurssen @BaranCLE for your kind words re tonight’s #lawjobchat. I’m not often in the hot seat (but enjoyed it)
3:06 am paulrubell: RT @PriyaLawyer: Looking forward to it RT @lancegodard: Next week we interview @PriyaLawyerand the week after @paulrubell #22Twts #Lawjobchat
3:35 am econwriter5: Looks like #lawjobchat was good tonight. Will have to catch up.
3:48 am aellislegal: @econwriter5 I’ll post summary + transcript tomorrow afternoon! #lawjobchat
4:17 am AdvertisingLaw: @lancegodard Lance, I appreciate the invitation from Melissa @mjsq to join in! It was a lot of fun – you did a great job! #lawjobchat
4:20 am AdvertisingLaw: RT @aellislegal @econwriter5 I’ll post summary + transcript tomorrow afternoon! #lawjobchat

Amanda Ellis’s Recap

Business Plans in Your Associate Job Search

Entrepreneurs Love Mistakes: A New Column

I think the best part of being my own boss is that I can take risks without having to answer to anyone. I can try new things and if anything doesn’t work, I can stop and change direction. I realize that this is a rare but essential privilege for any business person. No matter how supportive your work environment may be, it’s a lot easier to bet the farm when it’s your farm.

In other words, I’m allowing myself to make mistakes so long as I learn from them. And, trust me, I make plenty of mistakes.

That’s why I really appreciated this article on Bootstrap Website Advice, for example. While Steve Matthews focuses on websites, his advice to those bootstrapping their endeavors applies to many projects. I especially appreciated these tips:

1. Give yourself permission to launch a ‘Version One’ website. Nothing online is permanent, including this site.
6. Good enough. Along the same lines as the previous item, you don’t have time to be a perfectionist. Most new entrepreneurs wear lots of hats, or ALL the hats. That means you don’t have weeks to spend on your logo, or to perfect your business image coming out the door.
7. Know when your startup period is over. Whether it’s 6-months in or 18-months in, your ‘Version One’ website has a limited life span. Simply put: kill it and upgrade your home base. If you’re using that same website in Year 3, there’s a problem. New businesses are forgiven for bootstrapping; established businesses look cheap, and turn away work without knowing it.

Not only did Matthews remind his readers that mistakes and trial periods are okay, but he also reminded us that there is a limit to the mistakes we make. Entrepreneurs are still responsible business people, not simply the reckless black sheep of the corporate world.

But, back to my mistakes. I’ve decided to create a column here where I admit to some of the mistakes I’ve made along the way. (…probably after I’ve taken some time to stop kicking myself over them.) While I’m not sure if it’s the smartest thing I’ll ever do – admitting my mistakes freely and publishing them on the internet – I’m hoping that other people will also learn from them and also remind other entrepreneurs that they’re not alone.

I’ll try to include my mistakes and also how I went about fixing the problem. I’ll appreciate any tips or supportive comments in the comments.

And, yes, there is already a backlog of mistakes that I want to write about so look for the first installment soon!

Perfect Timing: A Thank You Note

Welcome back from the holiday weekend.  I hope everyone was able to catch up with family, wait in line at the mall, go to a high school reunion, and/or eat turkey or a turkey equivalent.

I wanted to express my thanks to all of the websites who picked up my Am Law job listings post.  Your kindness made Thanksgiving even better this year.

Starting with Bob Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch and including Randall Ryder at Lawyerist, Debra Cassens Weiss at the ABA Journal, Brian McDonough at Legal Pad, and Elie Mystal at Above the Law.  Thank you again for your kindness on spreading the post!