Executive Vice President
Midsize to large law firms are still in contraction mode across the Midwest, giving up an average of 17% of space upon relocating or renewing their office space leases. However, compared to global firms and other U.S. professional and business service industries, U.S. law firms on the whole remain slow to fully adopt contemporary, open, and collaborative office plans. Traditional law firm partners have located their business in the heart of the CBD, close to court houses, transit options, and client locations. In recent years, fringe CBD locations and satellite suburban offices have become more desirable to associate and senior associate talent – the future of the law firms.
Law firms also face supply constraints more than any other company in any industry. They typically want office space in premium “Class A” buildings with central locations, which is the tightest segment of U.S. office markets. With fewer space options, the firms are finding themselves battling with competitors for not only clients, but for desired office locations as well. Other challenges facing today’s midsize to large law firms include fee compression, mandatory office sharing, partner guarantees on leases, 3rd and 4th tier firms working for less on smaller projects, and millennial recruitment/urbanization.
Traditional law firms are used to having large private offices, reserved parking on site or in a nearby location, less collaborative space and convenient libraries housed within the firm’s space. Trends for the next ten years will include fewer equity partners, increase of staff attorneys, continued space contraction, increased collaborative space, digitalized libraries and filing, smaller offices, more conference space, continued acquisitions and mergers, and technology specialization.
Conventionally, law firms have been resistant to change but with growing technology and millennial influence, they will eventually join the global firms and other professional and business service industries by conforming to the modern space utilization trends.