Professionals cut office space to increase efficiency
Law and accounting firms are taking advice from corporate America in an attempt to improve efficiency - by reducing the amount of office space square feet by employee.
Rising costs, competition and regulation, combined with increasingly sophisticated technology that allows employees to work without a dedicated workstation, have forced professional businesses to scale back on office space, say commercial property brokerage Cushman & Wakefield and accountant Deloitte.
Fresh concerns have been raised by a 2012 survey by CoreNet Global, which found corporate America downsizing to approximately 176 square feet per employee from 225 in 2010 – a trend likely to continue.
Law firms, however, have considerably higher square feet to employee ratio, averaging at 400 per employee and 900 per attorney, according to Sherry Cushman. With real estate as a firm’s largest fixed cost, second only to salaries, it’s becoming increasingly important to take the efficient usage of office space into account.
“Law firms are trying to maintain profits, which is harder to do now than before,” said Cushman. “So they’re looking at how they can create better space that’s cheaper on a per-attorney basis.”
This trend comes as no surprise, after global law firm Arnold & Porter announced a large-scale relocation of its Washington, D.C., office into the under-construction Boston Properties (BXP). The firm secured 375,000 square feet with a 20-year lease, beginning in 2015.
With the firm anticipating growth, this move still represents a space downsizing, according to Arnold & Porter managing partner, Richard Alexander.
“Historically, law firms have not been very efficient about their use of office space,” he said. However like other businesses, he said, law firms are now taking steps to improve their operations.