Practicing law in your PJs? Work from home like a pro.

In my previous post, I outlined some of the reasons attorneys are choosing to commute down the hall rather than across town. But make no mistake, even people who are comfortable hiring a home office/no office attorney expect you to cast a professional shadow – wherever you are. To wit:

  • Clients will expect you to have set business hours. Will you have your “phones” staffed during this time, either by yourself or a professional answering service?
  • Your personal and professional online personas must be mutually exclusive. If clients and prospects Google you, be sure that your work-related Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages are separate and distinct.
  • If you plan on hosting clients at your home, have you confirmed that doing so is legal in your city? If so, do you have a distinct client entrance? If not, do you have a Plan B for client meetings?
  • If clients will be coming to your home, can you ensure that meetings won’t be interrupted by ringing doorbells, barking dogs, or children or other family members?
  • Your digital footprint, reflected in your e-mail address, matters more than you may think. (Look for more on this topic in future blog posts.)

Another factor to consider is your physical mailing address. Give some thought to the following issues:

  • If you send and/or receive confidential business mail from your home address, you may be revealing more about yourself than you’d like. Do you really want clients to know where you live? Defaulting to a P.O. box isn’t ideal with regard to conveying expertise and engendering trust, but it may be a better option.
  • Some attorneys opt for a virtual office — a space they use to market themselves that is not physically staffed during business hours — but that decision carries it’s own unique risks.
  • Another alternative is joining a legal incubator — based on the business incubator model for supporting startup companies — overseen by either the private sector or an academic institution. Given that many participants would likely be freshly minted, inexperienced attorneys, the incubator would need to generate clients for its members. Ideally, the incubator would partner with organizations such as business schools, co-working spaces and tech-startup incubators.

Your unique situation may carry additional concerns beyond this list. Head them off at the pass by running though some worst-case scenarios, then taking steps to eliminate those possibilities. With enough careful thought and a smart marketing strategy, the image you project while working from home can be just as professional as if you were officed in a sumptuous corporate suite.

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