Hi there. This is Billie Tarascio from Modern Law Practice. And I want to talk to you about office space. Every single one of you is probably thinking about office space. Six months ago, we were all sent home and largely have been working completely remote since then. Our productivity is up; and clients adjusted. They didn’t necessarily like that. They had to do zoom consultations or meet with them and not come in and meet with their lawyer, but they adjusted. So part of you has to be thinking, or part of me certainly has been thinking, what does that mean for office space?
Searching For Office Space Pre- and Post-Covid
The other thing that’s very interesting is in February, in March, before the pandemic, I was already looking to expand office space. And for the first time, in my 10 years, I had thought about office space differently. Not what do I need today, but what will I need for the next five to seven years?
Because for the last 10 years I have never been in office space. That was truly working for me. I had all, I was always outgoing my office space. So there were, there were countless like demolitions of walls and expansions and putting more people into one space. And it was never right. I had never done office space right. And so for the first time I was really thinking, okay, what does my office space need to do for Modern Law over the long haul? What does it mean for our culture? How should it work to serve our employees? How should it work to serve our clients? What does my office space say about my brand? I was finally thinking about this in a very, very different way and getting ready to drop more coin on office space than I ever had. It seemed like a really good idea.
Making the right investment for the long haul
Then we got sent home. Now I was fortunate enough to receive PPP money and EIDL loans, low interest loans. That must be invested in my business. And because my law firm has done well and was efficient from home, this money needs to be invested and there are, there are two places that you can invest money in your law firm, two places. People. And space. As far as space goes, you can lease out your space. So that’s what I was thinking. Okay, I’m going to plan for growth. I know how we’re going to grow over the next five to seven years. I know how many people that means so I’m going to get that much space now. And then I will sublease the space I can’t use. Makes sense. Good plan.
Then the pandemic hit and now we all use office space differently. So I’ve asked each of my employees their opinion. What, now that you’ve done this – and you’ve been kind of, begrudgingly, kicked out of the office and had to go home – in your ideal world today, if pandemic were gone, how often would you come into the office? And most people are saying maybe two days a week.
For me, for my firm, there is a loss in not having office space and for me and my firm and our culture and what we want to be in the community and what the group, the law firm that I’m growing, we want space and we want the best dang space we can get. We want beautiful space. We want beautiful space that is flexible to the way that people work, which means sometimes we work at home. Sometimes we work in the office. Sometimes we work collaboratively. Sometimes we work individually, and I’ve worked with an architect and designer to design a space that would work.
We’re thinking about this differently. I can get less space than I otherwise thought because people don’t need a dedicated office space all day, every day.
Rethinking Office Space Usage
So we’re thinking about assigning two lawyers to an office on different days. What does that mean? That means you want to have like a locked cabinet where people can put their personal space. You want to have floating space where people can come in if it’s not their day, like let’s say that Darren and Ryan share an office space and the office is, you know, Darren’s on Tuesday and Thursday on week one and Ryan’s on Monday, Wednesday, Friday week one, and then it switches. But Darren needs to come in on a day that he wasn’t planning to come in. There should be hot desks. There should be space available. Um, that is ready to use. We’re also putting in a room that is going to be pretty flexible. We’re going to use it as our yoga room. We’re going to have tables that are on wheels that are collapsible.
We’re going to use that for support groups. We’re going to use that for multipurpose meetings. We’re designing the space to work for the firm where we’re getting.
Dial in a Broker who gets it
I’m also working with a broker to get costs down. Now, at first, I was sure that I was going to expand. I made the decision to expand within the place that we’re at. We’re at Dana Park. It’s beautiful. It’s close to my house. It’s probably the nicest and close to my kids’ school. It’s probably the nicest. Uh, it is the nicest area where I’m at right here, but the price came in high. So I got a broker to do a market analysis and started looking at different zip codes, started looking at demographic information, started looking at other buildings and based on the price and the quality of the building, I’m now going in a different direction.
The bottom line is I’ve been working on this for six or seven months and I’m not done. I’m negotiating a lease for space that I won’t move into until next April. The biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten from this exercise is that I’ve always thought about office space, wrong and office space needs as much contemplation and as much planning as law firm planning. Like it should be a part of your, of your long term analysis of an ongoing conversation. And you need people to help you. I needed advisors. I needed a broker, a local broker who knew the market and who could give me good advice and who could push down the price and who could tell me what it might cost for tenant improvements and how much you should pay per square foot for tenant improvements at how much the, the landlord should cover and what to do with my existing space in existing lease.
Then add a designer for smart elements
I needed advice on that. And I needed advice from a designer because I’m not a designer. I don’t know about finishes and floor tiles and different lighting elements for ceilings and taking the time to learn that isn’t in my wheelhouse. So I’m so excited about this new space that we are currently negotiating. It’s been so fun to think about how we’re going to use this space. We’re building in a kitchen with a very big dining room table for meetings and for collaborative workspace, we’re building in the yoga room. Like I said, that we can use for support groups for clients, because we’re adding counselors. The the place, the space will be versatile, and I will also be able to use it to sublease and make money.
So I’m designing space where I can bring in complementary professions that will make modern loss stronger. And I’m talking to my team proactively about how they use space and how they’re going to use space differently. How do I make the space comfortable for them? If it’s not designated for them, how do I give them privacy, but also not waste offices?
So that’s, what’s going on for us, for office space. I would love to hear about what you’re doing, because I know this is something that all of us are struggling with. Are you seeing prices going down? Are you leveraging the pandemic to get the best office deal you can? That’s all for now. And I’ll talk to you soon.