Law firm ditches traditional office model for smaller flex space

Lathrop GPM opened 10K sf office in John Buck’s Wacker Drive tower

Law Firm Shaves 17K sf Off Wacker Drive Office Footprint
Lathrop GPM’s Bryan Minier with 155 North Wacker Drive (Lathrop GPM, Google Maps, Getty)

Law firm Lathrop GPM has relocated to a smaller space in John Buck’s downtown tower, prolonging the trend of Chicago users shrinking their footprints in light of the remote-work era, while shaking up the traditional law firm office model.

Lathrop GPM recently opened its 9,800-square-foot space on the 38th floor of the 46-story tower at 155 North Wacker Drive, CoStar reported. The firm is opting for a more collaborative and adaptable design compared to its previous space in the building, which spanned more than 27,000 square feet.

Designed by DLR Group, the space supports the firm’s national hoteling and hybrid work strategy, reflecting a broader shift in the office landscape that spawned from the pandemic. Remote and hybrid work models have been at the root of record-high office vacancies in Chicago. 

Lathrop’s redesigned workspace follows similar changes in the firm’s offices in Denver and Minneapolis, with ongoing projects in St. Louis, Dallas and Boston. Lathrop GPM’s largest office in Kansas City may also undergo similar updates as leases expire.

The firm initially had reservations about the office hoteling concept but has since embraced it.

“I think people enjoy the ability to sit in a different space and change up your scenery a little bit,” Bryan Minier, the partner who leads the firm, told the outlet. “It allows for more organic interaction to happen between different groups of people.”

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The Wacker Drive office includes a conference center, a cafe and a gathering area offering beer on tap. 

Despite the reduction in space, the design provides room for growth beyond its 14 lawyers in Chicago. The office features enclosed perimeter offices with glass exteriors to maximize natural light. Unlike the previous space, which had different office sizes for associates, partners and equity partners, the new layout standardizes office sizes.

Lawyers who come to the office three or more days a week are allocated permanent offices, while others use an app to select a workspace each day. The shift away from traditional large corner offices symbolizes a broader change in the legal industry toward prioritizing flexibility over traditional markers of prestige.

Law firms remain significant users of office space in Chicago while other industries, such as technology and government, pull back. Despite many downsizing efforts, law firms signed nearly 17 million square feet of new leases in major cities last year, setting a record and representing about 9 percent of all office leasing activity nationwide, the outlet reported, citing Cushman & Wakefield. That’s an increase from a 5 percent share in 2022.

—Quinn Donoghue 

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