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Lawyer Offices Shrink and Group Space Expands; Paul Hastings Considers Permanent Home Offices

Posted Jul 17, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Wood paneling and large offices are going by the wayside at some law firms.

The idea is to cut office expenses and encourage cooperation, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports. Firms embracing this 21st century design are “shrinking private offices, swapping out walls for glass, and installing high-tech meeting rooms in dead space once occupied by law libraries and filing cabinets,” the story says.

Lawyer offices have decreased in size by 20 percent to 25 percent, according to Matthew Barlow, executive vice president at the brokerage firm Studley Inc. Some firms, he said, are placing junior lawyers in interior space once used by administrative staffers. Typical office sizes are 225 square feet for partners, the story says, and 150 square feet for associates. In New York, however, many firms put two associates in an office.

The idea was first embraced by U.K law firms. Allen & Overy opted for a “generic office size,” all with soundproof glass walls, when it moved its London headquarters in 2005. Others have implemented open-plan offices where lawyers sit at workstations separated by glass partitions.

Among the U.S. law firms making the change is Paul Hastings, which is planning to make the changes when its leases come up for renewal, the story says. The firm is also considering allowing some lawyers to work permanently from home.

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