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How can law firms better utilize meeting rooms and workspaces?

by Todd Mascena
 

In law firm lore, size mattered

The size of a partner’s corner office. The square footage and grandeur of an Am Law 100 firm’s lobby. These were things that once conjured a sense of lore.

But as firms move to lower costs and workforce demographics change, the lore is headed out the door. Today, using workspace efficiently is the new priority.

​Your firm could also use office space more efficiently by outsourcing non-essential operations, particularly, shifting to a paperless practice, thereby reducing the space needed for document storage.

Office real estate

Real estate is one of a firm’s largest fixed expenses. Today, firms are moving to reduce that cost in two ways:

1. Changing the configuration and usage of the office space

2. Moving their offices to lower-cost locations

Cutting-edge firms are looking closely at how they use their space — even using data to re-evaluate the use of certain areas. If four conference rooms sit idle 50 percent of the time, for example, the firm knows it can turn two of those rooms to other uses — perhaps as a pool of cubicles for paralegals. By using technologies, processes and expertise to track and analyze conference room and other space utilization, firms can reconfigure real estate utilization in ways that maximize their revenue per square foot.


There’s no doubt the size of the law firm office is shrinking. Am Law Top 200 firms have reduced space usage by 15 to 20 percent according to Colliers International 2015 North America Outlook1. The average size of a senior partner office used to be 15 by 15 feet, but that has shrunk to 10 by 15 or even 10 by 12 feet, about the same size as associate offices. In some cases, firms are getting rid of the partner’s corner office entirely, using that prime space for team meeting rooms instead.

 

Opening up to change

While losing their offices “of lore” can be upsetting to some senior partners, a more egalitarian reconfiguration of space can attract and retain the next generation of attorneys; up-and-coming millennials, even those aiming for senior partner, place less value on office size and prefer open, collaborative and flexible work spaces.

Your firm could also use office space more efficiently by outsourcing non-essential operations, particularly, shifting to a paperless practice, thereby reducing the space needed for document storage.

Optimize your meeting room space

If it’s time for your firm to maximize revenue per square foot, the right business partner can help.
 
Moving to lower-cost locations can lower expenses significantly. According to Colliers, the cost per square foot ranges from $77 in New York City to just $18 in Indianapolis. And it’s not just the rent. Parking fees can be $50 or more per day in big cities. As a result, I’ve seen firms moving to the suburbs, which not only cuts rent but also eases transportation and parking costs for both employees and clients.

And even when firms stay in the city, there’s less emphasis on expensive, grand lobbies. At its new Washington, D.C. offices, Nixon Peabody opted for a less ornate and more natural, environmentally friendly, millennial-appealing lobby space, featuring a living green wall of plants watered by the condensation from the air conditioning system.
 
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.
 
 
1 Law Firm Services Group: 2015 North America Outlook Report. Colliers International. Document accessed online on Oct. 21, 2016.