The legal industry is facing a fundamental priority shift that is impacting how law firms look at everything from their investment in technology to how their office spaces are designed. At the heart of this shift are the disparate attitudes and preferences between the generations that are currently in the workforce. The up and coming millennial generation has its own motivations and preferences and these are often at odds with the desires of the baby boomers. Nowhere else is this more evident than in how law firms are leveraging real estate workplace solutions to attract new talent and grow their clientele.
A recent report, the 2014 Legal Sector Benchmark Survey from Cushman & Wakefield, showed that evaluating how real estate affects profitability, operations, client support and the generations of lawyers that work at a firm are all key factors in today’s decision making.
Accommodating the needs and desires of multiple generations can be difficult. However, in the legal space, the industry is experiencing more pain than most as it is seeing what amounts to centuries-old traditions regarding office space, that have successfully served many generations, being completely tossed aside.
Law firms have always sought out new, fresh talent, and the millennial paradigm is intent on pushing that norm in a new direction. The survey showed that the younger generation prefers a more collaborative work environment, so law firms must draw their attention with alluring incentives like great building location and flexible layout.
This is difficult for some of the more conservative firms to accept. Legal space typically costs more than normal office space, and some partners have lived in their building’s area for years, so moving the firm to incentivize prospects with less than a quarter of their experience is not necessarily an attractive proposition. However, there are more flexible solutions beyond relocation; for example, having two or more smaller office locations.
Technology has made having multiple workspaces a possibility. According to the survey, “hoteling” is one example of a growing alternative. A firm that offers hoteling provides office space to employees on an as-needed basis, as opposed to having a traditionally assigned office or cubicle. This reduces the amount of actual space a firm needs, lowering overhead costs while also helping ensure that everyone in the firm can access office resources when needed. A full 50 percent of respondents to the survey stated that their firm will implement a limited firm-wide hoteling concept in the next ten years, up 12 percent from last year. Furthermore, private offices are getting smaller so there is less space required per attorney. As technology evolves, more and more lawyers are choosing to work from outside the office more often.
A number of these trends are being seen in Las Vegas’ legal sector. Many firms are looking to buy or build their own building and plenty of vacancies means even smaller firms are able to achieve that. These firms weigh the buy/sell option, and from there, it becomes a matter of inventory to buy or lease.
Attorneys are always going to be a big driver for office space in the Las Vegas region, especially those who are a part of the newer generation. These newcomers have made it a tenant market for the time being and building owners are adjusting to their wants and needs. Since younger partners’ whims tend to veer away from 20’ x 20’ personal offices like previous generations. In fact, 47 percent of the survey’s respondents stated that a firm will achieve below the traditional standard of 500 square feet per attorney ratios. This makes catering to their desires an act of creativity.
Law firms are constantly seeking to attract and retain both new talent and new clients. Today they are finding when dealing with boomers who demand a corner office with patent leather chairs and millennials who want collaboration and mobility, there is one, single guiding principle to follow: be flexible.
Daniel Palmeri is Senior Director of Cushman & Wakefield | Commerce