NYC law firms think small in bid to scale back office space

Firms previously housed in upscale Midtown spots moving to lower-cost spaces Downtown or in Midtown West

TRD New York /
Aug.August 26, 2014 03:55 PM

Gotham law firms are increasingly going the way of big banks, shrinking the amount of space per attorney and relocating from pricey Midtown locales in an attempt to reduce office space overall.

In New York City, some firms that were previously housed in upscale Midtown spots are now either moving or pondering moves to lower-cost spaces Downtown or in Midtown West, Thomas Doughty, international director and co-chair of Jones Lang’s global law firm practice group, told the American Lawyer. In those new spaces, the firms are experimenting with new layouts, as will be the case with Jones Day’s planned move to Brookfield Office Properties’ 4 Brookfield Place in 2016.

Traditionally, law firms occupy two or three times as much space per employee as most other types of businesses, such as banking, insurance or technology. But that trend is changing.

“They are facing pressure to be lean and mean,” Sherry Cushman, executive managing director and leader of the global legal sector advisory group at commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, told the site. “Twenty years ago if they walked into a beautiful office, [clients] would say, ‘Wow, my lawyers must be smart.’ But now they walk in and they don’t want to say, ‘Wow, this is why my fees are so high.‘”

The square footage per lawyer is tumbling as office give way to larger communal working areas and multipurpose spaces that serve as more flexible, economical leases. [American Lawyer]Julie Strickland

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