Co-working spaces for lawyers grow in popularity

When Sue Swan was starting up her employment law practice in San Diego in the fall of 2015, she didn’t have much capital on hand. 

She didn’t want to be isolated in an expensive private office, but, she also didn’t want to be part of a law firm anymore. Swan connected with a brand-new co-working space specifically for lawyers, Enrich, which has allowed her to grow her practice alongside other entrepreneurial attorneys.  

“I wanted to be around other attorneys, to ask questions, share resources and share brain power,” said Swan. 

When you think about co-working spaces, what comes to mind may be images of spa-like escapes with sounds of running water and calming candles, or hip spaces you’d want to hang out after work, complete with ping pong tables and beer taps.

But those kinds of spaces aren’t always appropriate for lawyers.

That’s why Amanda Allen opened Enrich just outside downtown San Diego. Enrich opened its 2,500-square-foot office March 2016, and thanks to a full membership roster and a growing waitlist, Allen is already looking toward expansion opportunities.

“We’re really trying to change the way lawyers practice, by encouraging wellness and long term sustainability of practice,” said Allen, a business and real estate attorney. Thus, the name — Enrich. 

Enrich overlooks an urban canyon trail, and the company offers regular classes and programming on healthy living and professional development.

Allen had tried out a few other co-working spaces, but found that as a lawyer, she had specific needs that other coworkers didn’t have. For example, attorneys need the ability to print confidential documents, even on communal printers, and they also have a shared understanding of how to act when clients visit the office.

Enrich is one of the increasing number of attorney-specific co-working spaces popping up across the country. There’s Law Firm Suites in New York and Annapolis; Dockit in Springfield, Massachusetts; and Law Bank in Denver.

These kinds of spaces may be designed to minimize distractions so lawyers are more focused on work and clients, and they offer CLE credits and seminars.

Likewise, Allen hopes to build a support system for members, not just provide a physical space. That’s what she missed most after going into personal practice three years ago and initially working from home — the community of lawyers and their brain trust.

“In professions where they tend to be high stress, or very demanding, I think coworking has a real opportunity to change that,” Allen said. “That’s what we’re trying to do with lawyers is to really disrupt the way lawyers work.”

Co-working isn’t just about having fun, either. It can have real benefits on a person’s productivity, according to a team of researchers who published research in the Harvard Business Review.

It turns out, coworkers tend to see their work as more meaningful, they have more job control, and they feel part of a community — when it works for them.

In the article “Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces,” researchers Gretchen Spreitzer, Peter Bacevice and Lyndon Garrett wrote:

“Our research — which is ongoing — suggests that the combination of a well-designed work environment and a well-curated work experience are part of the reason people who cowork demonstrate higher levels of thriving than their office-based counterparts. But what matters the most for high levels of thriving is that people who cowork have substantial autonomy and can be themselves at work. Our advice to traditional companies who want to learn from coworking spaces is to give people the space and support to be their authentic best selves. The result will be employees who feel more committed to your organization, and are more likely to bring their best energy and ideas to the office each day.”