The future of the Legal office is still very unclear. How can Law firms develop a strategy when there are so many unknowns, so many people to please and a war for talent currently raging within the legal fraternity?
I've personally worked closely with Law firms and senior partners over the past 10 years to help them to implement agile working environments and paper-lite strategies to support this. Irrespective of what the Real Estate world states, the way we work has changed forever. The rigidity of the commute is now a thing of the past, and there has been a generational change in how we trust employees to work from home. However, how does this help a Law firm who seek to build a culture, and most importantly ensure the next wave of lawyers will flow through their ranks?
I've seen a reticence by Senior Partners to dictate when people need to be in the office. A recent dictate to be in the office for 3 days a week by a leading Law firm, saw this delivering just under 1.5 days on average. Indeed the departments that attended the most were the back office support functions.
This leads us to another point, and forgive me in advance for generalising. A Partner in a Law firm generally has a nice house with ample space for a home office. Usually self-disciplined these individuals are more than happy to WFH and abandon the daily commute. One Partner I spoke to stated “I will only go to the office if there is a need to see a client or attend a team meeting where it has been suggested my presence is required”. This individual has attended their office once in 3 months. However, Partners and Fee Earners still expect to have their own office for the rare occasions they are in the office. This prevents firms from freeing up space and 'right-sizing' as they're having to accommodate a 1:1 desk/office ratio regardless of low occupancy rates. Some firms had already implemented flexi-offices and open plan areas pre-pandemic, but tentatively. Majority of Law firms I speak to have a less modern working model.
What is the knock on effect of this? Law firms have seen their earnings increase over the pandemic, but are they setting themselves up for a fall? With trainees attending deserted offices the ability to absorb Partner’s experiences is drastically reduced. There appears to be a growing movement to get people back to pre-covid days, but little acceptance that the change in how we work is permanent.
It is quite the conundrum, and deciphering your office needs is very difficult. We've put together some resources that could help you to find a way forward;
ClearSpace helps Companies rid themselves of the anchors that hold back efficient office planning through utilisation studies, filing and storage audits and business process analysis. We believe that with all the information at hand, you are better able to make the best decision for your business and forge a way forward.