When attorney Jason Graham left a big firm to hang his own shingle about a dozen years ago, he tried setting up shop in one of the big coworking spaces in a then-emerging market.
“I hated it,” he recalls. “They nickel-and-dime you on everything.”
After 18 months of paying for every cup of coworking coffee and waiting out a lease, he tried the traditional office route, renting space in Brookhaven’s Executive Park. It turned out to be more space than he needed, so he subleased to other attorneys.
“The idea came up — I should do this on purpose,” Graham says.
And so was born SynerG Law Complex, a custom-built co-lawyering space in the heart of Perimeter Center that combines traditional managed offices with some of today’s coworking and business incubator concepts. Graham, who created the complex with a developer client, is its CEO.
Located at 6075 Barfield Road in Sandy Springs, just off Hammond Drive at Ga. 400, the two-story, brick-and-glass complex opened eight months ago and is rapidly filling up with lawyers drawn to what Graham calls the “plug and practice” model. The monthly rental rate includes everything from office furniture to cleaning services, from parking to conference rooms, from utilities to reception desk service, from the mix-your-own Coke Freestyle soda machine in the café to use of the legal research service Westlaw.
The rates start at $1,750 a month for a basic office. They ramp up to a maximum of three offices and two cubicles for $5,700. Various discounts are available, and SynerG works to get group-purchase discounts for tenants for such outside services as bookkeeping. Lower-price “virtual offices” are also available for attorneys who want to use the basic amenities but only stop in occasionally.
“If I tell people the rent, they get sticker shock,” says Graham, “but if I tell them [everything is included], they’re like, ‘How can you afford it?’”
On a recent tour, Graham showed off the sleek, modern interior design that is intended to give every tenant a sense of workplace prestige and authority clients may expect from lawyers. In a large conference room, he raised the blinds to show off a big selling point — a view of the landmark King and Queen skyscrapers on the other side of Ga. 400.
There are some practical amenities designed just for lawyers, such as a secure document shredder and a printer controlled by a key card so that others won’t see confidential documents popping out. Part of Graham’s pitch is that tenants know their space is overseen by a fellow attorney — he specializes in complex commercial litigation — and not just a property manager.
Robin Lourie, a personal injury and product liability attorney, is one of the happy tenants.
After over 30 years of practice and looking ahead to retirement, Lourie wanted a smaller office. “I was just looking for an all-in-one shop,” she said.
She looked at renting a regular office, but found SynerG “more cost-efficient and nice.” And the specialized clientele was more appealing. “I like the idea of just lawyers,” says Lourie, adding that it has paid off with referrals from others in the building.
For Kanner Baker LLC, a new firm focused on estate planning and tax law, SynerG’s services gave the ability to start practicing immediately instead of spending a month setting up a regular, independent office, said partner Paige Baker.
“I can’t say enough great things about it,” said Baker.
Besides the appeal of turnkey offices, SynerG has some social elements as well. Attorneys gather for regular “lunch and learn” programs to hear from professionals in other fields and chat with each other. During the tour, a lunch-and-learn with accountants about tax law changes was setting up. The complex has also hosted social events and meetings for such groups as the Sandy Springs Bar Association — partly for the atmosphere, partly to drum up business.
The incubator element — helping to nurture new attorneys — is a mentoring program. More experienced attorneys can get discount rates for being available “kind of like college professor hours” to advise others in the building for free, said Graham, who also does such mentoring himself. He has one tenant fresh out of law school who could not otherwise get that help so easily.
SynerG isn’t for every lawyer. Graham’s own commercial and corporate firm, Graham Legal LLC, is the largest there, with five attorneys, and he says that’s probably the biggest SynerG can handle. For the solo practitioners and small firms who make it home, Graham says he’s surprised at their diversity of experience and fields, from divorce to criminal defense.
He’s also found that “location matters” — many of the tenants live nearby, though he lives in Lilburn.
SynerG is nearing 50 percent occupancy, and Graham is already thinking about a second location, maybe in Decatur or the Cumberland area. And he’s pleased to see many of the current tenants paying a month or two in rent with referral fees from their coworkers in SynerG.
“There’s a camaraderie that’s building,” he said.
For more about SynerG, see synerglawcomplex.com.
This story is part of the Reporter Newspapers’ quarterly “Perimeter Business” section. For the Spring 2018 section, we are focusing on the coworking trend in Buckhead and Perimeter Center. For the main feature in the series, “The coworking craze is here to stay,” click here. For a profile of a coworking business at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, click here.