Unexpected Benefits Come From Office Sharing

Attorneys - as Landlords or Tenants The advantages of attorneys sharing office space are many. In fact, sharing office space can provide many unexpected benefits to both the law firm and the tenant. Ever since tough economic times hit in 2008, many law firms have downsized their staff, but continue to own or lease the same size office space. The result is an underutilization of space that translates to decreased revenue. By renting out vacant space to solo law practitioners, law firms can not only generate extra income, but also benefit from the natural synergies created by this arrangement. The benefit that is immediately obvious is the income generated from the rent of the actual office space. When deciding on a figure, it is important to include overhead. Common expenses include maintaining support personnel (for example, a receptionist, secretarial staff or an accountant), as well as providing a phone system and maintaining office equipment. The cost of filing clerks and other administration staff also can be defrayed by bringing in a solo-practitioner. But beyond the pure dollars and cents of a landlord-tenant arrangement, there are other benefits to sharing office space. Even when the practice areas of the law firm's attorneys and the tenant are not identical, frequent discussions between attorneys can keep creativity and ideas flowing. For the solo-practitioner, renting space in an established law firm can help stave off the negative effects of isolation. Daily contact with other lawyers can provide a valuable opportunity to network and can help the solo-practitioner keep on top of changes in the law. Ultimately, clients from both sides of the landlord-tenant relationship may benefit from a wider array of legal services. In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine's office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta.

Grades Or Experience? The Great Debate

Since the economy plummeted and job availability for attorneys went south, the question has been debated by third year law students throughout the country: getting the grades or having work experience--which is better for getting a job after law school. I can only speak from my own personal experiences, but there seems to be a very apparent catch-22. Employers want a new associate with experience. In order to get that experience, law students need to create enough time and space in their week and work during law school (and, of course, during their summers); however, working during law school most likely means sacrificing on your studies (and as most law school professors might tell a law student, sacrificing on your studies will only weaken your grades). If your grades suffer, the first thing employers notice on your resume is that you're not in the top of your class (be it the top 5%, 10%, etc. depending on your job market). If you're not in the top of your class, employers apparently think you lack the ability to perform in the real world of law. By that same token, however, if employers see that you're in the top 10% of your class, they next criticize your lack of experience. And far be it from me to point out to a potential employer in a cover letter or an interview (if I've managed to somewhere scrounge one up) that I'm a law student and law related experience is hard to come by (you would think this would be obvious to the employer--I don't know many law students with four or five years of litigation experience). Maybe you're thinking to yourself though that you're in the top 10% of your class AND you have actual legal experience so I should be fine. Not to be the pessimist--or maybe to be exactly that--you're still not guaranteed a job. Surprised? Shocked? Me too! I'm in the top 10% of my class, and I have work experience (two and half years to be exact). Now granted, my experience hasn't been in front of a judge. I spent a year and a half working in a public defender's office, and I've spent close to a year at the United States Attorney's office as a law clerk. You would think, however, that this would make for a fantastic resume, and you would be wrong (to an extent). My problem is that my work experience is all in the criminal law field, and when civil law firms see that they either a) question my desire to work in civil law or b) question my ability. Now, I cannot help but be offended when my ability is questioned; after all, I'm in the top of my class, and I've only taken 3 criminal law classes (so obviously I'm excelling in civil areas of the law, but alas the civil firms appear to overlook this). I say to ALL the potential employers out there, civil and criminal alike, I CAN DO ANYTHING YOU NEED A NEW ASSOCIATE TO DO! Word to the wise, perhaps that should be the subject line of all your cover letters from now on. Not that you have legal work experience or that you're number five in your class, but that you have NO preference for a particular area of the law. Perhaps by making this abundantly clear in your cover letter, when employers read your resume and see that you're at the top of your class and that you have work experience (regardless of whether it's only criminal or only civil) they won't disregard you for what they see as potential strikes against you. Forgive me for rambling; the point is don't put all your eggs in one basket. Get a job during law school, but don't over work yourself at the expense of your grades. And if you're lucky enough to make the grades and get the experience, make sure it's in both criminal and civil law. If you do those things, maybe you'll get the job that I just can't seem to get (and if you do get that job, put in a good word for me--my resume is posted at http://jodyslaw.wordpress.com/ and http://www.linkedin.com/in/jodysellerslaw). * Contributed by Jody Sellers is a current 3L law student, who between his limited free time, writes reflective blogs offering insight into the law school experience.

Advice on Summer Jobs: Both for Now and in the Future

Jobs: the ever dreaded and worrisome topic among law students. After reading articles online, talking with students about the economy's affects on opportunities in the legal field, I think it's time we students take matters into our own hands. Though I am not in the top of my class, not on law review, or moot court I believe that being aggressive and taking the initiative in your own education is the key to getting where you "want" to be. I am sure many law students are aware that, most, if not all, law schools have a program or class which allows law students to work for a non-profit or government office while obtaining school credit. As a first year law student I took advantage of this opportunity, looked early on as to whom I would want to work with, and how the job could help me in the future when looking for another job.

Ultimately I decided to work for a local judge, which has proven to be a wonderful decision. The most essential issues I observed during my externship are the importance of attorneys being prepared, and acting professionally while in the courtroom. I knew beforehand that such skills were important; however seeing it action made it apparent to me what type of lawyer I wish to imitate. Though first year law students may be developing legal research and writing skills, experience under your belt can mean more sometimes than your GPA. It simply means that even as a child of the Instant Gratification Generation you have to be patient with yourself, and do not expect a job to be handed to you on a silver platter your first summer. Do the research, make the calls, do not be shy. During my second year I decided that in order to distinguish myself I would need to work during the school year. If you are curious about an area of law or how to become "of counsel", but not sure whether you actually enjoy the practice area, I suggest calling a law firm that looks interesting and seeing if you can shadow an attorney for a few days.

Yes, it does take time out of your busy day, but it is worth it. A student could find that the work does not fit their personality in the slightest, and it would be another thing they could check off their list, and move on. However, if one is seriously interested in a practice area, like me, then talking to your career service office about a local firm that might be willing to let you work during the school year would be one way of making a job connection. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the value of talking with fellow students, or simply taking matters into your own hands and calling law firms. It is doable to work during the school year, or even a semester. I understand time management is an issue, but pushing yourself and making the time can really make a difference. Beyond just being aggressive when searching for a job, networking and putting yourself in professional social situations can be extremely helpful. For example, go on the ABA website and look to see what events are going on in your state or with the local Young Lawyers Division, look up the local bar association, or go to Continuing Legal Education classes on a subject your curious about (they even do teleconferences so you do not have to travel). All in all, if I can emphasize any overarching point it would be to be friendly to those that you work with, and keep in touch with any and all contacts you make, because you never know when you will need a helping hand. And believe me you will need help at some point. For those that may be discouraged, know that as lawyers we must persevere. We are a tough breed, and what we want may not always come in the forum we initially expect.

Contributed by Kelly Williamson

The Ethics of Legal Office Sharing Arrangements or Subleasing

4 Simple Tips to Keeping it Clean:

The benefits of legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are highly valuable: Money savings, camaraderie, and availability of professional consultation. The legal ethics are highly important, yet simple. Here are four simple tips for keeping your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing in line with your state's ethics rules.

1. Maintain Appearance of Professional Independence. Make it crystal clear to the public that you are independent lawyers, not a firm. Never imply otherwise on your letterhead, business cards, office signage, and directory listings; when answering the phone; or in fee agreement. (ABA Model Rule 7.5) For example, the receptionist should answer the telephone, "Law Offices," not "Smith and Jones Law Offices." And, your letterhead should read, "Smith Law Office" while your office mate's letterhead should read, "Jones Law Office," not "Smith and Jones Law Offices." (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 7.5)

2. Maintain Absolute Confidentiality. Keep your client files absolutely confidential. This means separate staff, files, computers, telephones, and fax. Confidences must not be shared. For example, you can share a receptionist if she does not have access to your client information. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.6)

3. Avoid Even the Appearance of Conflict. Do not contemporaneously represent clients with adverse interests to those of your office mates. (ABA Model Rule 1.10) For example, if your office mate is representing adoptive parents in an adoption, don't represent the birth mother. Just keep it clean. (Example of state ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.7)

4. You Can Share Fees. Follow normal co-counsel and fee sharing ethics rules (ABA Model Rule 1.5). Either allocate fees based on services provided or one lawyer assumes responsibility for the case and the client consents to fee sharing in writing. For example, Lawyer Smith does 40% of the legal work and receives 40% of the legal fees and Lawyer Jones does 60% of the legal work and receives 60% of the legal fees. (For example of states ethics rule: Georgia Rule 1.5) These 4 tips for keeping it clean in legal office sharing arrangements or subleasing are meant to raise the red flag of awareness. Be sure to consult your state's ethics rules for specific guidance and examples specific to your state for your legal office sharing arrangement or subleasing.

Atlanta Lenders and Developers Ignored Warning Signs of Recession

The amount of available office space in Atlanta over the past five years has increased by nearly 6%. As other cities in the country braced for the recession, Atlanta's lenders and developers ignored the warning signs and remained optimistic about the technology sector. Thinking that technology would continue to grow, many lenders eased up on financing terms, which caused some real estate developers to enter into risky projects. The resulting construction boom added an additional 3.6 million square feet of commercial space to the Atlanta market between 2008 and 2010. Even in the city's most affluent areas, the commercial real estate market historically has only been able to absorb between 200,000 and 300,000 square feet of additional space per year.

Further complicating the commercial real estate market, the unemployment rate in the city had hit 10% by the fourth quarter of 2010. Companies were downsizing the workforce and the space needed to operate. While analysts agree that a dramatic improvement in Atlanta's employment rate could help remedy the situation, forecasts suggest that a return to pre-recession employment may only occur after 2014. But even a return to pre-recession employment may not help much since the city's vacancy rate was already on the rise before the recession hit. As a result, employment figures would have to rebound well beyond pre-recession figures to positively impact the commercial market. As supply outstrips demand, landlords desperate to attract tenants are offering space at a significant discount. Rents are so depressed that it may take until 2016 for revenue to rebound. In the meantime, with less income generated, developers and landlords are hard pressed to meet their financial obligations. The result is an increase in the number of distressed properties, and ultimately, foreclosures. As of mid-2010, Atlanta led the country in seizures of real estate backed by securitized loans.

For a city used to leading the nation in relocations fueled by a growing economy, the cruel reverse of fortune is taking its toll. Between June 2009 and June 2010, Atlanta led the nation with the highest percent of real estate transactions involving distressed properties - 46 percent. In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created www.LawSpaceMatch.com, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine's office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Notes: Taken from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-14/atlanta-awash-in-empty-offices-struggles-to-recover-from-building-binge.html