The whole world is thinking about office space. Should you require your staff to come in? Should we work remote forever? Do I even need space? How do I reopen post pandemic?
Commercial office, retail, and hotel space demand has taken a nose-dive, but residential real estate is stronger than ever. Which begs the question, how do you plan for the future of your law firm? Who does your law firm serve and what role does office space play?
My firm, like most, has grappled with this question over the last year. We were technologically poised to work from home. But culturally we worked from one central office most of the time. My team has not only adjusted to remote work but now generally prefers working from home. They do not anticipate their preferences changing post pandemic.
One of the groups of people my office serves, are my employees. Then there are clients…clients are generally fine with meeting via video, but they seem more anxious to get back to a place where they can meet their attorneys face to face. The office serves employees, it serves clients.
Does It Serve the Needs of the Business?
My weekly company meetings used to include a lunch meeting in office that was largely mandatory. My main location is in Dana Park in Mesa off Val Vista and the US 60. For one attorney, it was almost an hour drive to the office. We had satellite offices for meeting clients, but the needs of the business required people to come in for office meetings. That has changed. We now use video conferencing for company meetings along with the breakout feature on Zoom. The business no longer requires weekly meetings in person.
Where to Locate and How to Work?
One Saturday morning, I started playing with Google Maps. I dropped pins, flags and hearts to find out where my attorneys and staff lived in the valley, where the wealthiest zip codes were, where other lawyers we located. The visual was shocking. My 20 or so person team was spread out all over the valley. There were small clusters, but we were very spread out. That meant that many of them would end up spending hours in the car commuting if they were required to come to the office. No one wants to drive a long way, which means a law firm is more likely to lose a good employee who cannot easily get to and from work. I know this. Our main location is less than 5 minutes from my home. Everyone wants that. No one wants to drive a long way. Not clients. Not employees.
It seemed clear looking at the visual of where my clients were located (wealthy zipcodes) and where my employees lived (all over the valley) that having a network of office hubs as opposed to a central headquarters would best serve the employees, the clients, and the business.
What Would Need to Change?
To make a distributed work force viable we needed to set up video conferencing portals for clients to come in for meetings, mediations, and even court hearings. By handling all the technology, lighting, and equipment for them, we could improve the client experience. So too could the office serve the attorneys by being set up as a quiet place for video conferencing and independent work.
If this sounds a lot like the concept of Regus or WeWork where attorneys have hotel office space, you are right. But Regus and WeWork are not set up for lawyers. It’s too open and not confidential. Google My Business hates the shared space concept. We attorneys are better off with micro shared space, staffed by trained professionals who understand the needs of clients and the ethical duties of attorneys. We currently have more space than we need at our Peoria, Mesa, and Scottsdale locations. They are designed for lawyer and staff hotels and equipped with Facebook Portals and Owls.
Things change. One lawyer who was primarily drawn to Modern Law based on our work from home policy is expecting twins soon and no longer wants to work from home–at least for awhile. Fortunately our new space off Pinnacle Peak in N. Scottsdale is only 10 minutes away! Another attorney moved from Ahwatukee into a brand new build in Peoria. Luckily, she is minutes away from our office on Thunderbird. Flexibility and options are now the most coveted attributes of the work environment. At least for now. If you are looking to share space and an address, contact me. We’ve got space all over the valley and we want to share!