Opening an at-home practice can provide tons of benefits; more flexibility, less time spent commuting, and more time available to spend with your family. That being said, opening a law office in your home comes with a few challenges that you will have to overcome. We highlight a few of the often-overlooked issues of running a home-office for your legal practice.
One of the most easily-overlooked aspects of running your practice from home is the restroom situation. There’s simply nothing professional about saying “The bathroom is the third door on the left, just past the kitchen and before the washer and dryer.” If a client has to walk through several rooms to relieve themselves, it may be worth installing a bathroom to uphold a level of professionalism. Even if you do have a restroom close or attached to your office, you may still have to renovate in order to ensure that the bathroom is wheelchair accessible.
Arguably the most difficult aspect of working out of your home is making your house handicapped-accessible. This is not a matter to be taken lightly, as many attorneys have been suspended from the Bar for not having their home-offices up to accessibility codes. An excellent resource that highlights many aspects of handicapped-accessibility that are often forgotten about is the American with Disabilities Act Guide.
If you’re working out of your house, you’re going to have to have high levels of security, not just for your clients, but also for yourself. In order to preserve attorney-client confidentiality, you will need to make sure that all legal documents cannot be accessed by anyone except for yourself. This means locking any legal documents away each and every time that you leave the office (even if it’s just for a bathroom break), having a secure computer that you have exclusive access to, and possibly even soundproofing your office to avoid any eavesdroppers that could compromise confidentiality.
Beyond the attorney-client privilege, you will want to have security measures in place in case one of your clients does not particularly like how you handled their case. Make sure that you have a very responsive personal security system in place before you start welcoming relative strangers into your home.
In order to legally operate a business out of your home, you will have to make sure that your building’s zoning code is in order. This can be a pretty complex process, but a good place to start is Forbes’ article, “Is Your Home Zoned For Business?” which provides tips and information to help you get your building properly zoned.
Insurance For Liabilities
Though not all work-at-home businesses require small business insurance, you should look into if you will need to buy a new plan before opening the doors to your ‘new location.’ Entrepreneur.com has written a great post on whether your home business needs insurance or not that provides a great jump-off point for figuring out the best insurance plan for your personal situation.
If you're working at home as a lawyer, be sure to read our other resources on this topic;
Updated: June 12th, 2016