By Ron Bockstahler
We are going on our third year living with Covid-19 and some of the early predictions about a hybrid work/office model are starting to become reality. But the truth is, this reality looks different for almost every law firm and is heavily influenced by personal preference, type of law practiced, and individual situations. When it comes to creating the perfect hybrid work environment, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Over the past 30 days, I have worked with five law firms helping them to create a hybrid work environment that will allow them to optimize resources, maximize profitability, and maintain firm culture. All these firms were successful prior to the pandemic and their work volume has been consistently increasing since the pandemic began. Their challenges include maintaining firm culture, developing new associates, coordinating work projects, and keeping their work force from leaving for new opportunities. I will even add my own company, Amata Law Office Suites, into the discussion since we too have experienced similar challenges during the pandemic and are now wrestling with how we move forward. Let’s look at a couple of these firms, their situation and how, at least for now, they are moving forward with hybrid work/office solutions.
Let’s start by talking about the largest of the five firms I’ve recently worked with. Since the project is ongoing, I will not mention the firm name for confidentiality purposes. The firm is based in Florida, with locations in several other states. In Chicago they have 38 attorneys and occupy two adjacent floors in the Chicago loop, about 35,000 sq. ft. in total. I started talking with this firm about a year ago, late in 2021, as they were considering the best way to move forward with their office space. Like most of us, they wanted to see how the pandemic would play out and how their lawyers and staff would adjust to remote work before making any big decisions on their office space. With enough experience working remote and a lot of input from their lawyers, they are now ready to move forward with a hybrid work/office model they believe will work well for their firm. Their model involves giving up both floors at their Chicago office in a partnership with Amata Law Office Suites, with the firm maintaining twelve offices for lawyers and staff who have elected to come into the office regularly and four offices for hoteling among lawyers and staff that come into the office only occasionally. The firm is signing a licensing agreement with Amata and will use the common areas and conference rooms in the same way as other Amata client. The lawyers and staff without offices have elected to work remotely, only coming into the office for firm meetings or to occasionally meet with clients. By giving up their permanent office space the firm can reduce expenses by just under $800,000 each year.
Next is a three-attorney law firm with two staff members. For the partners of this firm, the remote work model did not suit their work preference. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, they have been coming into the office every day. It is common to see the partners meeting serendipitously to discuss a client or case they are involved in. They are all old enough to be empty nesters, so they can work at home without interruptions. Instead, they enjoy the camaraderie the office provides. If I were to rank the reasons lawyers give me for coming into the office, camaraderie and the social aspects would be at the top of the list. For years one of my favorite sayings when talking with my managers has been, busy makes busy. Create a busy environment and people will gravitate to that environment.
Want to learn more about how Amata helps law firms leverage hybrid work? We can help you find the right fit – start a conversation with us here.