Law360 (September 4, 2018, 12:34 PM EDT) — Law firms in New York have been slowly shrinking their amount of space per attorney over the past two years as firms look to cut costs and get rid of space that’s become obsolete in the digital age, according to a recent survey by Law360 of both small and large firms in New York.
As firms reach the end of their leases and look to either renew or move to a different space, they are increasingly eyeing a smaller footprint per lawyer in part by reducing storage and library space. In some cases, the larger strategy of taking less space per lawyer is partially arrived at by shrinking office sizes for partners and associates, although the move to lessen the law firm footprint is broader than that.
Law360 surveyed a range of law firms that have New York offices, from boutiques to the nation’s largest firms, and firms of all sizes provided data. Based on responses received, from a group of 10 law firms, square footage per lawyer has been slowly falling over the past two years.
As of June 1, 2016, average square footage per lawyer among the firms that participated in the survey was 875 square feet, while two years later, that number had fallen to 829 square feet. Those averages don’t factor in office size for survey respondent Culhane Meadows PLLC, which operates in New York entirely on a cloud basis and therefore ostensibly has zero square feet per lawyer.
Average square footage per lawyer among the firms that participated in the survey actually jumped from June 2016 to June 2017, from 875 square feet to 954 square feet, but that jump was largely a function of Nixon Peabody LLP losing lawyers at its 100,950-square-foot office, pushing the firm’s square footage per lawyer there to 1,427 square feet a year ago.
Among the departures from Nixon Peabody between June 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017, were Constance Boland, a financial services and insurance litigator who left for Thompson Hine LLP; real estate lawyer Thomas Diorio, who moved to Akerman LLP; and tax attorney Alan Cohen, who left Nixon Peabody for Holland & Knight LLP.
Nixon Peabody subsequently shrunk its total footprint to 66,297 square feet, bringing its space per lawyer down to 884 from 1,236 square feet two years earlier. The law firm moved into a new office at 55 W. 46th St. in July of 2017.
In the case of Nixon Peabody, the firm has in part saved on space per lawyer by redesigning common spaces and having walls that can fold out to create various sizes of conference rooms.
“It’s been a resounding success. Not only with our clients.