At long last, there seems to be a bright light shining on the economy in Canada and across North America. As the economy rebounds, employers are hiring again and consumers are feeling more confident about their jobs – and the future in general.
But the legal profession, still trying to recover from lost revenues during the recent global recession, is exploring new ways to reduce overhead costs. One of their targets is the cost of leasing and maintaining impressive offices – representing 8% or even more of an average law firm’s expenses, according to some estimates, and ranking second only to the cost of attorneys’’ salaries.
Law firms look at re-configuring spaces
As a result, law firms – especially harder-hit small and medium-size firms –have been forced to rethink their approach to spending without sacrificing the prestige of a well-appointed, professional office space.
Some of these approaches include:
- Shrinking offices: Offices of senior partners are shrinking in size, from as high as 900 square feet per senior attorney to less than 500 square feet by 2020, according to Attorney at Work. Less- tenured attorneys and associates may have offices in the 120-to-200-square foot configuration.
- More meeting, collaboration spaces: Attorney at Work also points out that as lawyers’ private offices shrink, their firms’ space needs will grow for activities that include client events, meetings and “relationship-building, when the value of face-to-face communication is paramount.” Conference rooms, open meeting areas and client-accessible lounges can serve as flexible work spaces for client meetings and law-firm business.
- Less need for file storage: Digital records and cloud storage are reducing the need for large file rooms and paper files, allowing some firms to downsize quite significantly or use that space more creatively and efficiently. Remote-city offices and satellite offices can manage space more efficiently by storing necessary files in home offices.
- More efficient office hiring strategies: Like businesses everywhere, law firms are trying to be as efficient as possible, often by hiring fewer paralegals and legal assistants, or pooling and sharing them more judiciously within the firm.
Despite the rising cost of commercial office space– a sign of the rebounded economy – more flexible work space options are available than ever before for attorneys and legal practitioners striking out on their own.
These include shared office environments that provide the perfect mix of private-office professionalism, client-friendly meeting spaces, and the latest in world class amenities and technology, enabling firms to be up and running in a new office the very same day. And with flexible and affordable leasing options.
The end of the recent recession, it turns out, is creating new opportunities for legal professionals to reshape and redefine the business environments in which they operate.