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Ethical Issues and Liability Risks of Shared Space

A number of companies (such as ServCorp, Regus, and WeWork) offer options ranging from occasional access to co-working spaces to leases on private offices within shared suites, typically with several hours’ use of a conference room per month included and the ability to rent conferences rooms and private offices at an additional charge.  These company’s prices and services vary widely.

Anyone considering working in any type of shared space should be aware of ethical issues and potential liability risks these arrangements can present.  Attorneys in a shared space must be particularly careful to protect client confidentiality and to avoid holding themselves out to be part of the same law firm as the other attorneys working in the shared space (or allowing the other attorneys to implying an affiliation).  If clients or third parties have reason to believe you are affiliated with other attorneys working in the same space, you may be held liable for those attorneys’ conduct.

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The Affordable Care Act

Firms with fewer than 50 full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate – meaning they are not subject to penalties under the ACA for not offering employees health insurance.  Nonetheless, small firms should become familiar with other key provisions of the ACA, such as the Small Business Tax Credit.  This credit is available to businesses with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees who pay average annual wages below $50,000 (indexed for inflation) and contribute at least 50% of each participating employee’s health insurance premiums. The credit can be worth up to half of the employer’s annual premium costs.  Small businesses are also eligible to participate in the Small Business Health Options Program (“SHOP”), a marketplace designed to provide cost-effective coverage options to small employers.

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Accepting Credit Cards with Square

Another good credit card processing company is Square, which does not charge a monthly fee and takes around 3 percent of each charge.  (The exact processing fee depends on how the transaction is processed, e.g., whether credit card is swiped or the number is manually entered.)  Square has a referral program that awards free processing of $1,000 in payments to both the existing Square customer and anyone who signs up using the “refer a friend” link.  I have consistently been pleased with how quickly funds are deposited into my accounts.  Note that you should not use Square to process trust deposits.