Minimize to Maximize
With the flight to quality idea in mind, Hoff says now is the time to leverage spending on office construction to maximize the space. Hoff explained that the trend with tenants is moving away from short-term renewals to executing more new leases. “What was once a paint-and-carpet upgrade is now a paint/carpet/audiovisual upgrade and reconfiguration.”
We know that attorneys rely less and less on paper and administrative support, reducing the need for filing cabinets, copy rooms and secretarial bays. Private offices also don’t have the same allure as they did in the past. These trends are translating in law firms to reallocating space for the amenity and collaboration areas or reducing the footprint altogether to focus on upgraded spaces.
Another trend that Hoff noted is the emergence of separate “showcase” spaces and “working” offices as law firms followed their tech clients to emerging markets. Many large law firms are moving back-of-house departments to smaller cities that have a lower cost of living and real estate, while using a smaller office footprint in the client-facing, marquee offices in large urban areas.
The Bottom Line
Hoff’s firm is also seeing additional trends affecting office renovations that are less tied to the space design and functionality.
Mitigating risk. Post-COVID instability in the economy and supply chain still lingers. While the supply chain for construction materials is beginning to stabilize, lead times remain long, and labor challenges remain. Hoff sees many specialty subcontractors who took advantage of PPP loans to keep afloat facing default on those loans. As a result, finding qualified, solvent subcontractors is taking longer and requiring more due diligence.
Softening costs. David Hamilton, vice president of Purchasing at STO Building Group, told us that construction costs are finally softening. Law firms interested in beginning projects now can potentially leverage those savings.
Hoff recommends engaging your construction team early to help mitigate your risk and better understand the impacts of these trends on your decision making.
Yes, law office renovations are expensive, disruptive and fraught with decisions that can be difficult to navigate among a group of lawyers with varying opinions. However, the benefits to efficiency and morale will make the effort worthwhile. Good luck with your projects. Let us know about your experiences.