Tag Archives: space occupancy

Trend to Fewer Conference Rooms in Law Offices — Why & Implications

ConferenceLaw firms are building fewer conference rooms. New law offices have significantly fewer “conference seats per lawyer” than in the past.

Why?

  • Technology: audio and video conference capabilities reduce the need for in-person meetings.
  • Culture shift: clients do not visit lawyers so much anymore; lawyers go to clients.
  • Money: law firms are not spending as they once did.

Fewer face-to-face meetings come with a cost – to effective communications.

Douglas Rushkoff says that 94% of communication is not verbal. And, he observes that in audio and video conferences the bandwidth of communications is reduced almost entirely to the verbal.

Nassim Taleb points out that we know far more than we can communicate with words, although we can communicate that knowledge by other means. He cites Guy Deutscher. (Fascinatingly, Taleb says the ancient Greeks had no word for the color “blue,” a fact first observed by British Prime Minister William Gladstone. The Greeks had words only for about four colors, thus accounting for the “wine-darkness” of the sea.)

Rushkoff observes that when we communicate solely by means of audio and video connections, the substance of the communication is limited and cramped in important ways. Communications that come this way are more apt to be impulsive, uncompromising and without nuance.

So, we are having fewer face-to-face meetings. Our technology-enabled meetings are cramped and truculent. And we are jammed up against the limits of our language.

Lawyers need to know more about this trend and the consequences. And what color the sea, when dark, really is (I never bought that it was red).

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A New Design Approach to Law Firm Space and Talent

Simple law offxsmath: the two biggest expenses in a (conventional) law firm’s budget are compensation expense and space occupancy expense. After that, there’s IT. Then there’s everything else.

And so, a new economics has come to law office design. Gensler, the International design firm, sees “profound and lasting changes taking hold of the legal industry.” accompanied by “new approaches to designing the legal workplace.”

Gensler’s Research Report, Substance over Status, declares that “economic pressures may have been the impetus for change,” but there has also been “a shift in thinking and a new approach to space and talent is required for the legal workplace to remain nimble and respond to an uncertain future.”

Gensler’s report identifies key findings and catalogues new design principles and practices that characterize the choices being made by leading firms.  Law firms are said to be coming to grips with issues that corporate America has been grappling with for years.

The guiding findings are

  1. Cost is still an issue.
  2. Legal teams are replacing individual stars.
  3. Quality of life concerns are creating multiple attorney tracks.
  4. Firms are spreading out geographically.
  5. Firms are actively seeking workplace innovation.
  6. In the U.S., the private office isn’t going anywhere … at least for now.

But to see the specific design consequences that flow from these findings, you better go look at the report.

“A new approach to space and talent.”