Historically law firms have been a little slower than other corporate entities to adopt techniques to maximize office space use and reduce costs. However as the competitive landscape for law firms increases more and more firms are looking for ways to reduce office space overhead so they can use the money elsewhere. Even the most traditional firms are looking at this.
Below are 6 trends that are reshaping how law firm office space is built out.
Employee Ratios are Changing – In the past every partner had their own administrative person right outside their office. Now you are seeing one admin person support 4-5 partners. This results in less demand for office space.
More Cost Effective Finishes – Law firms are known for spending large amounts of money on interior finishes throughout their entire office space. High cost finishes (e.g. marble, the finest woods, etc..) were used on conference rooms as well as the partner offices where they meet with clients. Now to reduce costs they want to differentiate between public and private spaces and allocate more of the finish out dollars to the meeting rooms and more standard, lower cost finishes to the attorney offices.
Flexible Office Space Design – Below the partner and associate levels may law firms like the idea of have more flexible office space designs. Modular systems such as modular furniture & movable wall systems allow spaces to have multiple uses. For example with a little reconfiguration some rooms could quickly be transformed into huddle rooms, mini conference rooms, paralegal offices, case assistants, war rooms, etc..
Increased Use of Technology – Older attorneys that are more technology resistant still prefer to write on yellow legal pads then have their assistants input the info into the computer. They also still prefer to have traditional law firm library's to do research.
Newer attorney's coming out of school are much more tech savvy and prefer to do most of their legal writing on ipads or computers. They also prefer to use digitized books, resources, and legal websites to perform all of their research. What does this mean? It means that as more and more attorney's embrace technology the need for physical space will decrease. The physical law library will not go away however it will not take as much space.
Standard Size Offices are the New Norm – In the past associate attorney's would have an office about 10 feet x 12 feet. Then once they were made partner they upgraded to an office about 15 feet x 15 feet and then would spend a lot of money to decorate the space. Younger attorneys these days are more cost conscious and ok with standard sized offices which means less overall space is needed.