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“Hoteling” helps law firms cut costs, increase efficiency

by Todd Mascena
Whether it’s large conference rooms that go unused or offices that sit empty most of the week, poor real estate utilization can cost your firm a lot of money, and that cost is rising.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s 2015 Law Firm Perspective*, the market for law firm office space is getting tight. Vacancy rates are falling into the single digits in many markets and rents in the choicest areas are rising two and a half times faster than the market average.

73% of meetings involve only two to four people, but 53% of conference room space is built for meeting of seven or more**.

It’s essential to wring the most value from every square foot of that pricey real estate. One way to use your space more productively and efficiently is “hoteling,” or redesigning office areas so that they can be used temporarily by different attorneys at different times.

But how do you know which spaces are the least used, and thus the best areas to convert into hoteling spaces?

You may already employ some kind of logging system, whereby lawyers reserve the use of a particular conference room at a particular time. But many of us have had the experience of being unable to book a conference room because it’s already been reserved, only to find out later that the meeting was cancelled or delayed and the space was available after all.

In addition, using a conference room designed to seat seven people for a two-person meeting isn’t an efficient use of space. According to a survey by the architecture and design firm HOK**, 73 percent of meetings involve only two to four people, but 53 percent of conference-room space is built for meetings of seven or more.
Leveraging new technologies can assist with more effective tracking of the space utilization in your facility-driving measureable improvements in occupancy. Reed Smith, for example, used tracking software to assess occupancy rates before launching its hoteling pilot*** in its Northern Virginia and San Francisco locations. Some technologies combine sensors and software to gather detailed data on how space is being used. Wireless sensors installed throughout the workplace measure which areas are being used, and when, and which spaces mostly sit empty. This hard data can then be analyzed to determine which spaces are underutilized and ripe for re-purposing into “hotels.”

An accurate assessment is critical. The last thing you need is to sell your attorneys on the concept, then frustrate them because they can’t find the space they need when they need it. A well-designed hoteling plan based on real data can make a real difference in the satisfaction of your workforce and the revenue generated per square foot of office space.

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Todd Mascena
Todd Mascena, Senior Manager, Channel Marketing, Ricoh USA, Inc., has more than 23 years of technology services experience in the financial and legal industries. Mascena has early roots in the eDiscovery arena and was a key member in creating and executing Ricoh’s legal vertical portfolio. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance.
* "Law Firm Perspective." us.jll.com, 2015. http://www.us.jll.com/united-states/en-us/Documents/Law/us-law-firm-outlook-2015-jll.pdf
** "New Office Flashpoint: Who Gets the Conference Room?" wsj.com. October 15, 2014. http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-office-flashpoint-who-gets-the-conference-room-1413307377?KEYWORDS=conference+room+conflict
*** "The Law Offices of the Future Are Here, and Your Name Might Not Be On the Door." nationallawjournal.com. March 23, 2016. http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202752771822/The-Law-Offices-of-the-Future-Are-Here-and-Your-Name-Might-Not-Be-On-the-Door?slreturn=20160313150551