Why You Should Reassess Your Law Office Needs
Updated: May 8, 2020
Has working remotely been a challenge for you? Has working remotely made you reassess whether you need the office that you have occupied? Change is hard. Sometimes circumstances dictate a change which is actually beneficial. While you are reassessing everything about your practice, consider your offices. What were necessities a few years ago might not be anymore.
With new technologies and changes in the way legal services are delivered, the need for a traditional legal office has changed. Your needs depend in large part on your practice type and how you practice today, not years ago. Do not make the mistake of assuming you need to maintain a traditional office in a traditional location, even if that is how you have practiced for 20 years. Evaluate how you currently use your office. What do you really need, and what is unnecessary? Though technology allows you to be more mobile, if you haven’t or aren’t likely to take advantage of those technologies at this point, then you probably aren’t going to. But, times have changed. People spend less time in their traditional offices. And our recent experiences have perhaps illustrated how unnecessary they have become. Technology made it possible.
Even before this crisis, many firms were evaluating whether they need to continue with the same type and amount of space that they have had in the past. Do you need that many conference rooms? Do you need more? Do you need that many offices? What about staff space? What about less expensive space? How often do you use your conference rooms? For what? How many people do you usually house in a conference? Could you use smaller rooms? Perhaps you could lease conference space when you need it or share conference space with a colleague.
Just because you have been practicing law with a particular physical layout doesn’t mean you have to continue to. And what about your location? Is that prime real estate really necessary? How often do you meet with clients there? How often do you meet with clients elsewhere? How often could you? How would they feel about that? If you need some presence in a particular high-rent space, does you entire firm need to be there? Could part of your firm be housed in cheaper space?
Remember, just because you have always done things a certain way does not mean you should continue to.
Law firms are notorious for being slow to adapt to new technologies. Once investments are made in certain assets located in its offices, such as servers or outdated software, telephone systems, or networks, it is difficult for firms to abandon them. (More about office technology later). Firms just keep feeding that real estate monster. Don’t! Sunk costs are sunk costs. The money is gone. Look at things from a fresh perspective.
Answering a few key questions will help your analysis.
Why do you need office space? What are you going to do there?
If you are going to be doing real estate loan closings, perhaps you need space to conduct them. Or do you? Could you do those at the lender’s office or a realtor’s office? What if the legislation currently being discussed is passed and closings can be conducted electronically? Do you frequently take depositions? How often do you really need a conference room? How large does it need to be? Are there other options? Do you need space to meet with clients? Or, would your business clients rather you come to their office? Can you meet with your clients in your office or do you need a separate room? Do you need workspace in addition to your office? Does it need to be at your office? How much can you do from home (or the lake)? How much would you like to?
Who is going to be in your office?
Who is likely to spend time at your office? Clients? Staff? Other lawyers (associates, partners, contract lawyers)? How many? How often? Do they have to be there to do their work?
Can you do it elsewhere?
Once you have intelligently analyzed what space you need, where must it be located? Does it have to be near the courthouse? Does it have to be downtown? Does it have to be in a high-rent area? Could you more efficiently use multiple locations?
These are all factors you need to consider, but this isn’t an all-inclusive list. Put everything on the table. Start with a clean page. Think about building your firm as if it were new. And remember, it is generally easier -- and less expensive -- to expand or find more space than to contract when you have too much. So, don’t commit to more than you absolutely need. And, if you have too much, talk to your landlord. There may be options or business opportunities that will serve both of your interests.