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Clallam County Courthouse, Port Angeles, Washington



Is SOHO practice right for you?

SOHO practice--from home, without staff, associates, or partners--has its good and bad points.  Here's what I found so far:

  • Quality of practice.  My work is better, thanks to more quiet time, better focus without the distractions of an office. 
  • Decreased stress.  The home office lawyer has a simple work life.  Sure, you spend time stuffing envelopes, making your own appointments, and generally doing tasks which don't seem lawyerly.  On the other hand, you avoid managing employees, dealing with partners, and wasting time over every minor decision.
  • Low overhead -- should not be the main consideration.  The lawyer who can't make a living in a traditional office environment will quickly go broke alone. 
  • Better client contact.  Without a secretary or paralegal between the lawyer and client, the relationship grows closer.  I know and understand my clients much better than ever before.
  • No backup.  Careful use of technology, and a loose association with a contract lawyer can handle this problem.

I was immediately amazed at my increased productivity.  Working alone in my basement office is much like working at your office on a weekend.  Peace and quiet really boost production and creativity.

Necessary Skills

Here's a test, like you might find in Cosmo.  If you answer yes to each of these, you may be ready to move your practice home.

  • Can you make decisions without consulting  colleagues?  Do you enjoy making decisions without input from others?  Do you have enough experience to confidently practice alone?
  • Are you self motivated?  Everyone I know who works at home has no trouble keeping on top of things.
  • Do you enjoy close personal contact with clients?  If you don't like your clients,  forget home office practice. Bury yourself in a skyscraper downtown. Hide behind your staff.
  • Are you willing to spend time staying organized?
  • Are you familiar with computer technology? Do you enjoy learning new hardware and software?
  • Do you accomplish your best work alone? Do you enjoy quiet work time?

Office Space

I fell into SOHO practice almost by accident.  We moved into a new waterfront home, and I couldn't stop visualizing myself working in the daylight basement.  It sits on the edge of the lake.

One room is about 300 square feet, with windows on two sides.  We added a sliding glass door, a patio, some carpet and paint. We'll soon have a concrete walkway to the entrance, and a separate bathroom.

This configuration works for me because I see very few clients in the office. I might have one deposition a month here.  Usually, I just go to the adverse lawyer's office.   I carry no more than twenty cases at a time, many in distant counties, and often meet clients at their homes or offices. 

Don't try this at home if you expect dozens of general practice clients showing up  at all hours!

Zoning. Zoning and land use restrictions are generally easy on home workers, but can depend on the the cooperation of neighbors.  Here, the solution is usually to practice in a low key manner.  If you put up signs and treat the neighborhood like your private parking lot,  you may have problems.  My solution is to keep the impact from my office at a minimum.

Insurance.  Pay attention here.  Your homeowner's policy won't cover business equipment and supplies.  It won't cover liability when some defense lawyer falls off the porch. 

Now the good news.   An endorsement deleting these exclusions will cost you about $25 per year.  That's right, $25. Call your insurance agent now. Don't wait until your home law office is under way.

Income Tax.  The IRS has realized that home office business isn't just a tax scam anymore.  See your accountant about writing off a portion of your utilities, repairs, etc.

(This page  will feature photos, descriptions and tips as I collect them.  Please send ideas and photos to  Let me put your home office up for all to admire.)


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