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Why sharing office space with other lawyers can get you in hot water

  Stapler

Many lawyers trying to setup practice find sharing office space with fellow attorneys advantageous. Splitting expenses, equipment and office support staff relieves the weight of overhead while you're trying to establish a solid reputation and client base.

But it can work against you. Some lawyers don't realize that by sharing an office space without establishing independence, they are putting themselves at risk for being held liable for their office-mates malpractice suits if it appears they are in a partnership.

The determining factor in whether a lawyer can be held liable for an office mates malpractice claims is grounded in perception. So it's important to establish your practice as separate professional entity.

Here are some tips to do just that provided by the American Bar Association.

  • Display your name on a separate name plate on the front door, and be sure to use designations such as "a sole practitioner" or "not a partnership"
  • Only your name should appear on your letterhead, business cards, invoices, brochures, etc.
  • Obtain a separate telephone line with a different telephone number and a greeting with your name only
  • Engagement letters should state you are neither affiliated with nor responsible for other lawyers
  • Explain the difference between a partnership and an office sharing arrangement to new clients
  • Be aware of all aspects of confidentiality, including office design, acoustics, soundproofing, file and computer access, the whereabouts of unattended materials and shared personnel

    Always be prepared for any liability issues. Click here to learn more about Lawyers Professional Liability Insurance.

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