It would no doubt be fair to say that the legal profession has, until the last decade, harboured a reasonable aversion to change. However the sector, which has long been reluctant to let go of age-old traditions, is coming to realise the countless business benefits of embracing new ways of working. Two of the most notable innovations in the legal sector in recent years have been the increased uptake of artificial intelligence, and a shift towards agile working practices.
Amongst Am Law 200 firms, the uptake of the latter is becoming ever more apparent, as BigLaw firms economise their office space. As the price of rental space continues to rise, particularly in New York and San Francisco, where buildings can go for more than $100 per sq ft and $73 per sq ft respectively, and pressure to cut fees rises, law firms are increasingly looking to their bottom lines.
Given than Citi Private Bank found that firms devoted 7.2% of their revenue to rent and other real estate fees in 2015, and a recent study found that staffing changes and other factors mean that 17% of a typical law firm's office space is unused, it’s unsurprising that firms are considering their physical footprints.
According to some reports, firms are reducing their space by up to 25%, and cutting the size of individual offices in favour of large agile working spaces to encourage more collaborative working practices. At a number of high profile firms, office size no longer correlates to rank, and universal-sized offices and open plan arrangements for junior associates are becoming increasingly prevalent.
For firms keen to offer competitive rates to their clients, adopting more agile working practices and creating a space that fosters collaboration can be an incredibly attractive proposition and with clients increasingly pushing for alternative fee arrangements it’s likely that a number of other firms may follow suit.