New Jersey anti-virtual office law lacks modernity, fairness…and our confidence vote

Of all places in the world to stay put with the backward notion that virtual offices are not bona-fide, the American State of New Jersey is surprisingly one of them. Law enforcers are now giving lawyers a hard time about using technologically efficient, economical and professional business operations a.k.a., “Virtual Offices.”

Despite the fact that most states are fine with the virtual office concept, New Jersey regulatory committees are stuck in the Dark Ages trying to enforce a rule that was implemented decades ago. They say that if a lawyer’s office is “by appointment only” then it’s not a real office. It asserts that virtual receptionists cannot answer questions about matters pertaining to law. Aren’t all lawyers booked by appointment only? And which corporate law firm receptionist is able to answer legal questions? Clearly, lawyers who make use of virtual office services are not happy, and we are here rooting for them.

Our question to the state of New Jersey: what’s the difference?

Technologies and services today are actually geared towards solving the problem of the absent and unreachable lawyer. Virtual Office providers make it cost effective for lawyers to build their own private firm, instead of working for large, structured, corporate law firms, while having all the personnel in place to represent them professionally when they are away from their offices.

Let us explain how a typical lawyer would operate virtually using our services at Central Park Business Centre (and we’re sure this applies to all the other reputable shared and virtual office companies out there, including our dear friends-at-heart in New Jersey):

A lawyer starts up his (let’s just use ‘his’ for now) firm. He doesn’t yet have the capital or motivation to invest thousands of dollars a month in a conventional leased office space, plus hire a full time receptionist and administrative assistant. His solution: he goes to a shared office centre, an executive office suite, a business centre – call it what you will. The centre offers him a virtual office package that includes a receptionist who will answer his calls with his company name. His business address is at a real business building – not a P.O. Box (which looks unprofessional and sketchy), and not a home, which can be unsafe considering the nature of his work.

His virtual office package includes boardroom and office space hours, where clients can meet him in a professional and confidential environment. There is a reception area where clients wait, a human greeter, an upscale furnished office, a phone line, internet connection, photocopier, mail room, water cooler and all the amenities you would find in any corporate law office. He even has access to on-demand administrative assistance for any preparation of documents, arranging of couriers, etc. Rather than paying full-time staff, he just pays for the minutes of time used, keeping his own billing costs to clients lower. The only difference is the services are economically shared with other businesses.

Meanwhile, as he is busy being a lawyer, the shared office/virtual office company charges him one low monthly rate for taking care of running his office. He has more billable hours available to him, making him more accessible to clients. Clients call in and the call is answered in the lawyer’s company name. The call is either transferred to the lawyer directly or a message is taken. (Sounds like a typical law firm, doesn’t it?) Receptionists are well-versed on how to handle sensitive lawyer calls. All mail is delivered to his office which, virtual it may be, is still his office. All communication date-stamped and forwarded to the lawyer in a timely fashion.

It sounds like this lawyer is doing what other lawyers do except in a more cost-efficient way. That being said, all lawyers are virtual – if they can work from home late at night and work in court and work by meeting other lawyers in their offices and answer calls on their cell phones, they can work from a shared office.

For the purpose of serving clients, what would you rather hear: “Hi, this is Mr. Law Company, I’m not available right now, but leave a message after the tone and I’ll be sure to return your call sometime in the next 48 hours.” or “Good Morning this is Mr. Law office how may I help you?” Does a lawyer really need to hire a full time person and rent secluded retail space to have option number two?

According to the report on law.com, “Lawyers must have an office where confidential information can be kept securely, where face-to-face discussions with clients are private and where someone can make sure the attorney is “reachable by telephone or e-mail during the occasional absences.”

Hmmm…sounds familiar. Shared offices meet all those requirements, so why make an archaic fuss over a rule that was designed probably years before the brick-sized Motorola phone even existed? Pu-lease!