Law Practice Management

Office Bargains in Bad Economy Allow Law Firms to Create Exciting Spaces

When Florida bankruptcy attorney Rick Perry logged onto a real estate auction site last summer, he was looking for some art. An appointment had canceled, so he had a few minutes to spare.

But then he noticed the meager bids on a pair of historic Queen Anne homes in downtown Ocala. Perry, a member of a local historic preservation group’s board, couldn’t resist, the Star-Banner recounts.

Perry called an attorney pal, Jim Richard, who called another friend. Together, the three men purchased both buildings for roughly $250,000 each in the final minutes of the online auction. Now Perry is practicing law in one of the two century-old buildings and he and Richard, who bought out the third investor, are planning to seek a tenant who will continue to operate the second home as a bed-and-breakfast.

Meanwhile, local preservationists are thrilled to hear that the buildings will be saved and maintained in prime historic condition, the newspaper reports.

In the bigger picture, the purchase reflects a significant fact of life right now for those seeking law office space: It’s a buyer’s market.

Those renting in high-rises who are lucky enough to have a lease approaching renewal can drive a hard bargain and use the savings—compared to what they would have had to pay only a few years ago—, to renovate in accord with current trends, the Miami Herald reports.

Among the popular choices: Eliminating law libraries, making other common areas bigger and reducing the size of attorney offices and secretarial stations, the newspaper reports in a lengthy article about law firm office rentals in South Florida. Law firms are now the area’s top tenants since banks have lost more ground during the economic difficulties of the past year, and landlords and rental agents are courting them.

“We had a lot of good choices,” says managing partner John Sumberg of Bilzin Sumberg. But a brand-new space that could be designed from the outset to match the firm’s needs was a big draw—along with the in-building gym, nearby restaurants and other amenities offered by the firm’s new offices and neighborhood.

“Cost wasn’t really a factor, because when it came down to it, everyone was very competitive,” he tells the Herald. “It really came down to preference. There’s a lot of excitement in the firm about the design and development of moving into a new space. People are energized about it.”

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