Rightsizing isn’t just for retail. Responding a changing workplace demographic, law firms are the latest to jump on the trend of recalibrating their office space, according to real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield’s latest research Bright Insight: The 2015 National Legal Sector Benchmark Survey. Cushman surveyed 1100 law firms, from boutique to global agencies, for this report.
“Firms are beginning to re-evaluate how they operate and make significant changes to their current business model,” said Joe Stettinius, Cushman & Wakefield Chief Executive Americas. “The future of law is changing, and the firms that are able to be nimble and consistently adapt to the changing times are anticipated to be in the most competitive and profitable position for years to come.”
Sixty-three percent of respondents said their firms will move toward a firm-wide hoteling concept, either including all attorneys (12%) or with a limited number of attorneys (51%). Meanwhile, 70% of respondents say their firms expect to implement single-size offices for all levels of attorneys.
“With Millennials taking over the highest percentage of the U.S. workforce in 2015, law firms are taking into consideration the philosophies of the younger generation as they relate to real estate and overall retention and recruiting,” according to Cushman & Wakefield. “This is an important step as associates are increasingly involved with business development and succession planning and are influencing real estate decisions.”
The types of personal factors cited as significant by attorneys at the associate level have changed. Work/life balance, collegial work environment, mentoring by a senior attorney an compensation were the most important to associates — but making it to partner level and having a private office ranked just seventh and eighth, respectively.
About 53 percent of respondents said they expect a U.S. law firm could operate virtually, reducing or doing away with brick and mortar locations. That figure is up 12 percent year-over-year. However, 13 percent said operating virtually was impossible for a law firm.
“With real estate being the biggest expense for firms, excluding salaries, we are seeing a continued shift to rightsizing and incorporating new workplace strategies that help firms lower the cost of their footprint, while improving operations and client services,” says Sherry Cushman, executive managing director and leader of Cushman & Wakefield’s Legal Services Advisory Group. “While no one can look into a crystal ball and know exactly where the legal sector may be headed, we have begun to benchmark shifts and establish potential new trends that may significantly impact the way firms view and implement change,” Cushman said. “It will be interesting to track these trends and help clients make well-informed, strategic real estate and workplace decisions that bolster productivity, recruitment and retention and profitability.”