Going solo in the Freelance Economy requires that you follow requirements for where, not just how, you do business.
The ABA Journal recently reported on a disciplinary case where the attorney received a two-year suspension for not maintaining an exclusive office space, among other things. Delaware requires attorneys to maintain a “bona fide” office for the practice of law in Delaware. The respondent did not, and being available by phone is simply not enough to comply with the rule.
“Barakat’s lease does not include any designated office space that is exclusively his. Rather, the employees of the landlord collect Barakat’s mail and greet any visitors Barakat may have. The building security guards direct visitors to the fourth floor, where a receptionist is stationed during normal business hours. Under this arrangement, Barakat is entitled, for additional fees, to rent a conference room or office space, and utilize secretarial, reproduction, facsimile, word processing, and shipping services. The landlord’s billing records (the “Occupant Ledger”), and the testimony of two employees who work on the fourth floor, evidence that Barakat’s presence at 901 North Market Street is “sporadic and unscheduled.””
For attorneys going solo, or anyone entering the Freelance Economy and working from their home, this case should be an eye opener. Licensing requirements for office space are just as important as practical realities in choosing where to set up shop.
In reading the case, we don’t want to get too hung up on the office requirement since the attorney at issue was deficient in this administration in other matters, such as safeguarding client funds (a very big ethical issue, as you non-attorneys may guess) and lying about these issues in response to prior inquiries.
However, for the purpose of setting up your business, make sure where you practice complies with licensing requirements and ethical obligations just as much as how you practice.