An eon or two ago, I opened my first law office in Philadelphia. It was a modest space to say the least. But, I invested more than I had for a nice desk, furnishings, carpet and a couple of pieces of art work. I thought it looked pretty nice. One of my first potential clients sat across from me and asked how much I’d charge for a simple will. I quoted the going fee of fifty dollars. She laughed at me and said, “I’m not going to pay for your fancy carpet!” So, you see, you can’t win them all. It did get me thinking, however, about what I should consider when assembling my professional office.
As a young lawyer, I flew more on intuition and didn’t give it all that much thought. As years went on, I began to sort out some reasoning behind my approach to this task. Here are some of my suggestions. As a litigator, I realized that many of my clients’ cases could last for years. From a practical point of view, I want to maintain a strong relationship with this client from beginning to end. I am certain that over the span of a protracted litigation clients might question whether they might want to take their case elsewhere, not fully understanding the nature of the law and why things seem to be going nowhere fast. Hence, Rule One: The office should portray a symbol of success. After all, the client typically is looking for a financial reward at the end of the rainbow. What can say that better than elegant artwork that is tastefully framed and lit?
My office space hosted clients, opposing counsel, experts, and of course was a workplace for my staff and myself. Depositions, client meetings, day to day office work, all was the functionality of where I spent so much of my time. This leads us to Rule Two: Your office should be designed to create a peaceful, serene workplace. Of course, tastes differ, but much thought should go into considering what you think works best for you.
Rule Three: Make the space your own. The office should say something about you: your diplomas, personal pictures, objects that set you apart from the rest of the pack. It will make your clients feel more comfortable and at ease, thereby creating an environment that will be more likely to breed successful interaction. My mentor collected clocks, for example. His office was filled with beautiful and interesting timepieces of all varieties. Every fifteen minutes on the hour they would all ring and fill his office with a symphony of sound. This was always good for a laugh and a short break from the tedium of the day. Be careful, however, to decorate your office with such objects with a sense of style and grace. We still want the office to say, “This is a place where serious business takes place.”
To sum up, give deep thought to this overall process. If you feel overwhelmed, or over-matched, consider a professional to help you select artwork, lighting, furniture, office design, etc. And hope that none of your clients laugh at you and balk at paying for your fancy carpet.
Rich Smukler currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida. He is a certified mediator and qualified arbitrator. As a photographer, his works have been featured in numerous museums, galleries and private collections internationally. You can see more of his works at http://www.richsmuklerphoto.com. (Kick back and stay awhile)
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