We have all heard the saying, “work is no longer a place you go, but what you do.” The idea of where and how you work has drastically changed over the years. Thanks to technology and concepts such as co-working spaces, lawyers have redefined how they practice. We had a chance to chat with Kevin Pratt, founder of CO-Law, a co-working space dedicated to lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina. We learned more about the concept and what it means for the profession.
LM: The mission of CO-Law is “to create a community inspiring you to be the lawyer you want to be.” What inspired you to create Co-law?
KP: I founded CO-Law because I want to make law practice management easier, more cost effective, as well as more innovative and agile. More importantly though - I wanted to bring people together in a whole new way.
LM: Coworking is a concept that seems to be rapidly catching on throughout various professions. What sets CO-Law apart from other coworking spaces?
KP: Cushman and Wakefield recently published a report predicting that the coworking market will triple in size over the next five to ten years. So, coworking is no longer a trend – it’s a personal and professional lifestyle choice that’s here to stay.
With that said, coworking options are popping up all over the place, and we need to differentiate ourselves. CO-Law is a space designed specifically by attorneys, for attorneys. As a result, we are making mindful decisions when it comes to the ethical and practical considerations lawyers have in their practices. On top of that though, we have a unique spirit for innovation. So, we ask ourselves two questions every day: (1) are we doing things differently for the better; and (2) are we helping, supporting, and serving lawyers? We want CO-law to answer both of those questions with a hands-down YES. Then, that’s what sets up apart.
LM: Can you explain to us how a Co-law membership works?
KP: All CO-Law memberships are month-to-month. You can purchase a flex membership, which offers an opportunity to work in an open work area with unlimited conference room and printing access. The conference room is first-come, first-served. You can buy a private office membership, which is space large enough for two people. With that membership, you will also get unlimited conference room and printing access. However, there are other memberships that you can utilize if, for example, you want to save money in other ways. For example, you can get a phone membership—port your phone number over to CO-Law’s exclusive partner, Dialpad—and have CO-Law manage that part of your law practice. Or, you can have CO-Law manage the legal research part of your practice through a legal research platform. Through that membership, a member gets access to cutting edge legal research software leveraging IBM’s Watson technology. Every membership platform is designed specifically to free lawyers to spend more time on revenue generating activities.
LM: What are some of the advantages of coworking for lawyers, specifically for solos and small firms?
KP: First, it’s a more efficient utilization of space to grow your law practice. Second, lawyers are better together—because together they benefit from economies of scale; shared institutional knowledge; and referral opportunities. It’s well-known that the best referrals come from other attorneys, so it only makes sense to increase those opportunities. Third, coworking is a platform of independence and empowerment.
LM: What do you say to lawyers who have concerns about maintaining confidentiality and practicing within ethical guidelines in coworking spaces?
KP: Because we are lawyers, we absolutely appreciate and understand the importance of confidentiality as well as ethical and compliant practices.
I would encourage lawyers to recognize that concern should not be a barrier to doing things differently, especially when clients expect it. Lawyers’ Mutual recently sponsored a CLE outlining how attorneys can thrive in a coworking environment. Camille Stell said it best in her presentation, so I will share a few of the big ticket items below:
- Do not state or imply that you are in a partnership or other professional organization unless it is a fact [read: make sure your client understands that practicing from a coworking space does not mean it’s your firm].
- Use private office or conference rooms for client meetings and phone calls.
- Use caution with common printers and have a consistent shredding policy.
- Implement a security policy for your physical space and digital space.
These tips are a great start. If you still have questions, contact Lawyers Mutual. They are happy to help. And remember: there is nothing ethically wrong with working from a coworking space.
LM: How do you feel coworking will impact the future of law and those preparing to enter the profession?
KP: Coworking will change solo and small firm practice for the better. One of the benefits of practicing law in a coworking culture is the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere. Coworking enhances that benefit in a meaningful way. It also provides an organic platform to engage with, and contribute to, your community. For those entering our profession, I would encourage you to continue pushing the envelope of innovation and free yourself from believing lawyers must do things the way they have always been done.
LM: What do you personally enjoy the most about the concept of coworking spaces?
KP: Coworking offers an opportunity to connect professionally in a way that’s new and fresh. Coworking is also space as an experience which means it’s not only a physical place, but also a platform for soaking up creative energy from others, enjoying opportunities to unplug together, and lean on and learn from each other – without working in the same law firm. It’s independence. At their core, coworking spaces unlock new learning opportunities. The practice of law is a commitment to a lifelong of learning, so to that extent, I believe there is a meaningful nexus between coworking and growing your law practice.
LM: Where can our readers learn more about CO-Law?
LM: Is there anything that you would like to add about Co-law or the coworking concept that we haven’t covered?
KP: We’re not a law firm. We are law practice management and a community of lawyers who enjoy the feelings of empowerment, acceptance, and support that’s readily available in coworking.
So, just try it out. And if you have a bad experience, don’t rule it out. Our workforce is changing drastically. Tomorrow’s clients will have far different expectations of their lawyers so be prepared to meet them (your clients) where they are. Coworking can be an avenue to do that.