PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES
ASK A LAWYER
by jennifer j. rose
Working at home can be a great arrangement for lawyers. All sort of tax
benefits come into play. (Read the IRS Guide to Offices in the Home.)
No longer must you endure lengthy commutes to the office, surly parking
attendants or lunch-hour sales at Bloomingdale's. Mornings start off
with a cup of coffee from your own kitchen instead of Starbuck's. Lest
the rest of the world think you're loafing about in fuzzy slippers
watching Oprah, there are still some rules:
1.Dress appropriately. Notice, I didn't say "suit and tie," but dress
for the office, just the same. At least during your "regular office
hours." You never know who's going to drop in, and it's real tacky to
get caught in your bathrobe. (After hours, no one cares if you want to
work in your pajamas.)
Insist that staff dress appropriately. While the dress code for home
offices is relaxed, often staff begins to think that sweats are de
rigueur in a home office. If you have staff, their attire is actually
more important than yours.
2.Keep regular office hours. While your "hours" may not be the usual 9
to 5, establish some kind of schedule when you're Open for Business.
You need the regularity to stay on task, and your clients need to know
when you're "at home" and when you're "at work."
3.Keep household noises to a minimum. The sounds coming from the
laundry room or kitchen are a dead giveaway that you're not real serious
about the law business. Lawnmowers and televisions blaring are
distracting. If you can't help it, invest in a white sound machine or
play some music that will mask household noise. Keep cooking odors
down....while everyone loves the smell of just-baked brownies, you may
want to wait until later before you boil cabbage. Unless you've got the
telephone shut off and you absolutely know that you're going to be
client-free, make some adjustments in household schedules.
4.Keep your home life and your office life separate. Don't use your
office area at home for anything that would be out of place on the 20th
floor of Conglomerate Towers. You may adopt an attitude of formality in
your home office that you never considered when you practiced downtown.
5.Some clients can be just as uncomfortable meeting you at your home
office as you are having them invade your territory. Meet them
elsewhere. Borrow another lawyer's conference room, meet at the
client's office, or find another more public meeting place.
6.Underscore to both clients and other lawyers that having an office at
home doesn't mean that you're on call twenty-four hours a day. I've had
other lawyers think that they can expect that I'm doing nothing better
than waiting around to hear from them until 9 p.m. on a Friday night,
just because my office is at home.
7.If you can, establish a separate entrance from the outside to your
home office. If that's impossible, then do your best to keep the
pathway from your front door to the home office as direct as possible.
Keep the traffic flow away from the private aspects of your home.
8.When you're not working, stay out of the office. Do not, under any
circumstances, enter your office unless you have a legitimate purpose in
being there. Otherwise, you'll never mentally leave the office.
9.Come out for air occasionally. If you have an "office practice," it's
real easy to get nearly everything accomplished without ever leaving.
Make an effort to get out, even if you're only going out for coffee with
other lawyers. Don't become a hermit.
10.Read about others' home offices. Self Employed Professional and Home
Office Computing magazines are great resources. Talk to others who have
home offices....what works for someone in another field can often work
for lawyers who work at home. Don't give up networking and trawling for
jennifer j. rose practiced matrimonial law in Iowa and now lives in
central Mexico as an eccentric recluse and legal consultant
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