Renting out your law firm’s vacant space? 5 factors to consider
How can you utilize your empty office space to both strengthen your firm and offer opportunities to other attorneys in your community?
When you have empty office space, it can feel like a financial artery is severed. The overhead of building, owning, or renting a large space can be astronomical, and subleasing your vacant space brings in extra income without having to cut corners.
As you look into new ways to improve your law firm’s bottom line in 2020, consider how you can utilize your empty office space to both strengthen your firm and offer opportunities to other attorneys in your community. Consider these issues as a guide so that you can choose the right subleasing collaborator and end up with a smooth, stress-free experience.
Make Your Rental Opportunity Stand Out
It is important to be familiar with the commercial rental market in your area and take the necessary steps to make your rental stand apart from other options. Consider which amenities you want to make available to subletters including reception service, kitchen access, conference rooms, and networking areas. Working with a seasoned real estate professional to sublease your space will be a great help in knowing what needs to be done to your space before it can be properly marketed. A commercial real estate professional will know offhand whether or not you need to stage the vacant space to appeal to potential renters or even hire a professional photographer to capture more attention.
As a law firm owner, you must ensure the safety and privacy of your attorneys and clients. It is vital to market your space to those outside your area of practice. Renting to attorneys in related—but not the same—areas of practice can improve their business and your own. Think about which areas of law would be a good match for your law firm and put extra effort into marketing to those attorneys. A divorce lawyer might be perfect to collaborate with if you have a probate law practice, since you often serve similar clients with different legal needs. When considering a potential subleasing arrangement, be sure to vet the candidate’ practices to ensure that their business goals will not conflict with your law firm’s business goals.
Maintain the Office Culture
Cultivating the right office culture and work environment takes time. Assuming that you have a workplace culture you want to preserve, make sure you only consider renters who would contribute to the environment you have established. If your law firm focuses heavily on collaboration and free use of communal spaces, an attorney who works best in silence might get frustrated with the noise level at your firm.
If your firm works hard to create an environment of open communication and productive problem-solving, an attorney who appears aggressive or combative could stir up issues when they interact with others at the office. Subletting is harder than it looks and involves aspects of professional matchmaking and careful reflection on culture. Consider talking to your firm’s attorneys to find out what traits they would value in a sharing environment and which traits they would prefer to avoid.
Think About Office Traffic
Client meetings are an essential part of any attorney’s business. Consider your subletter’s needs and look for ways to meet them without infringing on those in your law firm. For example, if your area of practice involves minimal face-to-face meetings with clients, bringing in an attorney who sees multiple clients every day could be disruptive. Ideally, you should choose a subletter whose use of the common areas, such as the lobby and conference rooms, will align with your own. In this regard, a real estate professional will play a key role in knowing which questions to ask to ensure the best fit for your law firm’s vacant space.
Anticipate Extra Work
When you sublet to another attorney, you become a sublessor. This comes with certain tasks and responsibilities which oftentimes fall on an already overburdened office administrator or managing partner to handle. Plan on spending extra time collecting rent every month, addressing issues reported by the subletter, and working out any problems that arise between the subletter and the firm’s attorneys. If this is unsustainable, a third-party rental service that serves as an intermediary is the best option to consider for an easier experience.
For law firms with vacant space, renting out available offices benefits everyone. You add to your firm’s bottom line while providing valuable work space to solo attorneys or small law firms, creating collaboration and networking opportunities for everyone. With the right subletter and contract, this is a mutually advantageous and economic solution.