[00.48] France Hoang and Tom Craig Background. The idea behind Chisel
I'm France Hoang, the creator of Chisel. I'm also a partner at FH+H.
I'm Tom Craig. I'm the Managing Partner at FH+H and the Director of Chisel.
We're here in DC which has actually the highest per capita population and the highest raw number of lawyers in the United States. Our firm has been around for about seven years now. We've always been entrepreneurial, not afraid to try new and innovative things. As we were building out our new offices one of the things that occurred to us was that there was this empty space in the market that – while coworking had been tried for a number of different industries mostly technology – that no one had done it in the DC area for lawyers. The practice of law was changing as well and that there was a space for something less than a law firm but more than a Bar (Law) Association. We thought that Chisel, both as the coworking space and as a community for entrepreneurial lawyers, would be well received.
Coworking is something most lawyers and private practice are actually solos or in small firms. Alot of timesin the marketplace, we focus on the big law firms when the fact is most lawyers aren't in that situation and coworking has appealed to those lawyers. Ordinary coworking space doesn't meet some of their specialized needs, especially, when it comes to things like client confidentiality. It's also the ability to be around and work with other legal professionals instead of being in an environment of different kinds of professions. We hope Chisel is a way to address all of those concerns while providing lawyers the kind of coworking environment that other professions already enjoy.
[02.39] Onboarding Process for Lawyer to join Chisel
In order to be a member of Chisel, you have to be an active member of a Bar (Law) or work for a member of an active Bar (Law). In other words, we want practicing attorneys and their staff.
Our focus is on three different types of lawyers. First, the solo lawyer. Lawyers who are more junior or not as experienced still are obviously great lawyers but they're just kind of starting out their solo practices. Second, the small law firm is the one-two-three partner law firm that maybe has a small staff— one or two associates, a paralegal, receptionist. The third group is lawyers who belong to other law firms but who want a place to practice law when they're not at their home law firm, for example maybe their partner— a senior partner who lives in Virginia whose law firm is located in downtown DC— but they are allowed to work away from the office and when they choose to do so, perhaps they prefer a place in Virginia
[03.55] Event and Workshop at Chisel
We have a variety of events and one of the things we're trying to do with this space is to provide some added value to people who use the space. We have a dedicated event space right in our office, so we don't have to leave here to have events. We have a variety of things. We have classes everything from a series on government contracting for lawyers. We had an outside speaker in this week to talk about exit strategies for small businesses. We have speakers coming to talk about private equity investment and other transactional issues.
In general, we have a variety of events to enhance people's professional knowledge. At the same time we do networking events where we'll have happy hours and other events where people can come and just meet other lawyers. In addition, to give an opportunity for them the network.
[05.00] Coworking Space Landscape in Virginia
We're the very first coworking space solely dedicated to lawyers in the Greater Washington metro area. We're located in Tysons— which is a suburb of DC but it’s part of the greater DC area. There are nationally about four or five active coworking spaces focused on lawyers but we're the first in the DC area.
The coworking community as a whole in DC is very vibrant. There are over a hundred coworking spaces and some of them like Chisel are becomingspecialized for example, Capital Post is a coworking space largely focused on veterans. There's a coworking space called Eastern Foundry that’s largely focused on government contractors. There's another space called Hera which is for women as well.
[05.55] Marketing Strategy
We use a variety of methodologies, but a lot of it is simply networking and referring the lawyers – people already associated with Chisel reach out to lawyers they know. At the same time we do have an advertising campaign, principally social media based. We are also reaching out to the lawyers we know at law firms to take advantage of as we discussed earlier some of the big law firms’ partners sometimes need space outside their location to work out, so we're reaching out through that network as well.
What we do here is providing infrastructure for people to practice law but under the bar (law) rulesthere are certain things we can't do, for example, we can't treat them like a member of our own firm because under the bar (law) rules they would consider them a member of our firm. For example, we don't share lawyers, we don't provide full reception of services and business development.
While we do have programs that teach lawyers how to do business development and we certainly encourage networking and referrals among our members but we don't do any sales or business development on behalf of the Chisel members to grow their practices.
[07.32] The Future Plan of Chisel
We have our current space and we're going to make that successful and grow and hopefully reach full capacity here in the not-too-distant future, there could be additional spaces in the DC area like I mentioned— this is the highest raw numbers and per capita population of lawyers in the United States. There are other cities where there are equally dense population of lawyers where the space and the concept could work – so that’s from from a geographical growth perspectives.
From a services growth perspective we’re in phase one, which is providing a coworking space; phase two is really building a great set of program that supports the lawyers who are in a space, for instance, teaching them how to grow a practice, teaching them how to run a business, giving them opportunities to network and really creating a community of entrepreneurial lawyers which doesn't really exist right now, you're either in a law firm or you're not. There's nothing kind of in-between that's meaningful.
Eventually, the service we'd like to provide is create an ecosystem where we have these Chisel lawyers, paralegals and associates where they can have a place to work, network, learn and then engage in work with one another. For example, if you're a partner who needs an associate on a case instead of hiring an associate you can look inside the Chisel ecosystem and hire from there for your one matter for the legal help you need.
The song is by Anitek - The Same under CC license.