A recent Globe St. piece on the findings of the Sixth Annual Bright Insight Legal Sector Benchmark Survey highlighted an important trend in law firm real estate. Because of the pressure to increase profits and reduce expenses, and in response to generational and technological changes to the way lawyers do their work, law firms are reducing their square-footage per attorney.
The survey, conducted by Cushman & Wakefield’s Legal Sector Advisory Group, ALM Legal Intelligence and Law.com, notes that firms are adopting single-size offices, making plans for associates to share offices and declining to hold on to unused space they may have been warehousing for future growth. They are also thinking about how they will adopt new technology and use it in the space. As firms compete for the top millennial talent, they are eager to create office layouts that represent a forward-thinking approach to the practice of law.
While we know that some lawyers are grumbling about smaller offices, “right-sizing” your firm’s space creates a great opportunity to consider how you want to communicate about your physical workspace internally, with recruits and even with clients. How will your new space foster more collaboration or reduce dependence on traditional meetings—possibly allowing for more flexible scheduling? What might something like same-size offices say about your firm’s vision for pay equity and other challenges related to reliance on traditional hierarchies? In a market where clients and younger talent are demanding progress, it’s beneficial to articulate what they stand to gain from changes to your real estate plans.
Of course everyone understands that saving money is the main reason firms are reducing their office space. But any big change to the way you do business creates a chance to express your values and communicate with stakeholders about how your new office will better serve their needs—beyond just the bottom line.