For millennial lawyers, big corner offices with spectacular views are being replaced with open, airy spaces designed more for functionality and flexibility than prestige.
Traditional law offices have become a casualty of the downturn in the legal industry during the recent global recession. While the economy has rebounded, the legal profession is still licking its wounds as firms continue to struggle to rebound from lost revenues.
While law firms continue to hire young professionals, junior associates and paralegals are finding themselves inhabiting new, flexible office space equal in size to a senior partner’s office. Forward-thinking firms like Nixon Peabody, alarge Washington D.C.law firm sees long-term leases as a thing of the past, given the frequent mobility of younger employees. The firm’s managing partner recently supervised its move to a more communal space with corner meeting rooms designed for group collaboration–with millennial work behaviors in mind.
Not to be mistaken for Silicon Valley, there are no ping-pong tables or video games or other playful distractions. These new law firm offices value function over form, and a new tech-savvy generation’s cultural sensibilities. Millennials want to make a difference, and make an impact for the greater good, even if that means forgoing some of the prestige of traditional law offices. Their collective power is strong enough to force law partners resistant to change to adapt to a new way of thinking about law offices and what they represent, and coworking spaces are emerging as an increasingly viable alternative.
Within modern coworking spaces, millennials often get what they want:
- Offices with glass walls in front rather than a wall and door signify transparency, democracy and connection-components highly valued by the younger workforce.
- Corner offices no longer hold the esteem they once did as surveys show that millennials seek a more equal power structure reflected in office design that allows access to their superiors and their voices to be heard.
- Millennial Lawyers see technology acumen as a desired job skill, and demand office space that conforms to their skill set.
Within coworking spaces such as ours, law firm clients with younger employees often value the same coworking features as small and large companies do, making flexible workspaces a viable alternative, especially considering the following trends:
- The value of function over form. Open office space that allows for easier interaction with senior staffers and access to mobile technology is considered critical to their job outlook and performance. A recent report notes that young millennial associates are less concerned with capitalist pursuits and more passionate about technology and a mission for the practice they can embrace.
- Lower real estate costs. While coworking space is competitively priced with commercial office rates, they are often smaller physically and make for a lighter financial burden, making lease costs easier to manage.
- Tighter downtown vacancy rates. In most cities in the U.S. and Canada, there are fewer workspace options available for lease, driving up costs.
In one case in point, Trevor Smith moved to Toronto in 2013 on a mission to open the first satellite office for his Vancouver-based law practice. Smith found he could reinvent new space with iQ that suited the firm’s specific needs. The coworking space his firm chose had all the modern amenities of a high-end commercial office contained inside a professional-looking building with a lot of character.
With many millennial lawyers entering the workplace, cost-conscious law firms with an eye on the bottom line, client satisfaction and employee retention are increasingly opting for flexible office space alternatives like coworking that appeal more to their long-term needs.
If your legal practice or law firm is exploring expanding, downsizing or more flexible office options, let us know in the comments.