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  • Writer's pictureRyan Beiser

You Don't Want a Lawyer with a Fancy Office.

My first family law job was at a firm in Santa Monica that was old school. The partner I worked for had a corner office with a view of the ocean, and he had 2 full-time legal assistants. I estimate his overhead was in excess of $30,000 per month. Of course, someone had to pay for this, and while the direct payer was the partner, the real payers were the clients.

70 years ago, law firms operated very differently, which was a function of the technology at the time. There was no such thing as electronic legal research; rather, the law firm had to invest in books—lots and lots of books.

There were no computers, so everything was written by typewriter. Lawyers were either unable or unwilling to type, so legal assistants performed this work for them. The lawyers would either dictate in person or by voice recording to the legal assistant. All payment of overhead expenses, all generation of client bills, and all other record keeping in general was accomplished with US Mail, checks, typewriters, etc. A big, beautiful office and numerous support staff were seen as necessary and as a sign of success.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the state of technology such that law firms no longer need the cumbersome overhead they once did. Today, documents are prepared on computers and are filed with the courts electronically. Even when I started my first job, court filings were done with couriers. A person literally showed up to the firm every day, picked up hardcopies of court filings, drove them to the court and then returned them to the law firm with the court’s stamp.

Personally, I work out of my home, and I love it. My overhead is very low, and I pass those savings on to my clients. For a client, I understand how going to client meetings at fancy offices provides some measure of confidence in the firm. However, you can do a little experiment to learn that an office isn’t everything. You know you see TV ads for personal injury lawyers all the time, and many of these firms have several large offices. One of them even purports to have a private jet. Look up a few of these law firms on Yelp! See what their clients say about their service.

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