A couple of years ago a family member was relocating several states away. She let us know she was going to ride share her move with someone she found on Craigslist. As a family, we were horrified (she is fine). Many of us, however, are familiar with Aribnb which pairs hotel seekers with those looking to rent out a room or property. Similarly, while the word “coworker” might be a dirty one to some of us accustomed to working on our own, creative-concept coworking space might be the solution to one of the downsides of working solo.
Solos May Become Isolated in Their Work
In my experience, one of the best ways newer and young lawyers learn to practice law is from other lawyers. Immediately after exiting law school and passing the bar, a new lawyer might soon realize there a lot that law school did not teach. I enjoy my freelance work and, I’ll admit, not working with clients, but as a freelancer, sometimes I miss having colleagues or stimulating conversation that keeps me up to date on what’s going on in the industry or what issues others in the profession view as important. I suspect that this may sometimes be a compound problem for newer lawyers, especially with so many of them taking the solo path. According to a recent CLE I attended, half of all attorneys in the state of Washington, for example, are solo practitioners.
It has been pointed out that not only can working alone (from home, virtually, or even in a solitary office space), create isolation but it can also create “small fish syndrome,” wherein “[Y]ou feel very insignificant compared to the corporates and larger SMEs you read about on social media, and this can make you go for less exciting work than you are really capable of – at lower rates. And it might mean you stay within your comfort zone and don’t develop your expertise and experience to its real potential.”
While it is nice not to have to navigate the challenges of clients and senior partners, working on your own in any endeavor, as a solo practitioner or otherwise, can be isolating. Coworking spaces may be the answer to this problem. Coworking spaces allow solos to rent a desk for several hours or a day or simply work in a shared space with others also seeking a coworking environment on a limited basis.
Coworking as a Solution to Isolation
Jelly was created by two men who admittedly hated office politics but missed the camaraderie, creativity and learning opportunities available in an office environment. While Jelly draws many freelancers, writers and entrepreneurs, it also draws people from many different professions. Jelly brings people together to cowork once a week, or as often as they like, throughout the country (and the world). Though Jelly began in New York, individuals can start up their own coworking opportunities anywhere through Jelly.
Specifically for solo practitioners, and newer and young lawyers, this can be useful. I have mentioned before, but it is worth repeating: a significant challenge for solos is that there is no tax attorney down the hall or an attorney who specializes in IP law a couple of doors down who can provide advice. With Jelly in particular, people can get all kinds of help, including IT or other kinds of tech help. Though Jelly is not considered a place to promote your business, you may meet a new client or networking opportunity, etc.
As one writer pointed out, when commenting on what those who work alone might gain through coworking, “In a nutshell, all those important and juicy details you tend to miss out on when you’re working alone in your home office.” Additionally, to enjoy the multiple benefits of co-working, lawyers can set up a Jelly on their own or create a structure that is more informal than Jelly (though already pretty informal). As Jelly’s creator notes on the website, “If nothing already exists, it’s straightforward to start your own group, and my How to Set Up Your Own Jelly guide has been used by groups all over the world.”
While Jelly has also sometimes been referred to as a support group, perhaps it, or something similar to it, will soon be populated by refugees from what I often refer to as the dysfunctional family structure of law firms. Limited co-working opportunities can allow you to avoid the downside of working alone, such as isolation, lack of motivation or limited earning power and enjoy some of the upsides, including freedom and enthusiasm for your work via a cost-efficient option.