infographic - How seaworthy is the information that drives your law firm?

How seaworthy is the information that drives your law firm?

What could be easier—especially on the Friday before a holiday week—than to enjoy a little infographic regarding law practice?

OK, I probably had you until “ … regarding law practice,” but it’s still light lifting for Change of Venue Friday.

The visual art comes our way from U.K. firm InsightBee, which examines the information sources available to law firms. What they have discovered, alas, is that many of those firms and attorneys say that they lack vital information that would better guide their practice decisions.

At the top of this post is just a piece of the graphic. You can see the whole infographic here.

An InsightBee staffer (worker bee?) tells me that 86 percent of U.K. law firms report that they worry they are out of touch with their clients’ needs. And only four percent of law firm partners strongly believe they have the right tools to achieve their business development priorities.

Yes, I know it’s the U.K., not the U.S., but those are still compelling numbers.

In your firm, do you feel you have up-to-date information on what your clients’ needs are? And do you have processes in place to determine those (shifting) needs?

Well, now that I’ve annoyed you with unanswerable questions, I wish you a wonderful—and client-free—weekend!

Conference room artwork, Dickinson Wright law firm, Phoenix, Ariz.

Conference room artwork, Dickinson Wright law firm, Phoenix, Ariz.

On October 21, law firm Dickinson Wright held an open house to showcase their new space in the Viad Corporate Tower in midtown Phoenix. I stopped by to take a look.

Congratulations to the firm and its managing partner, Gary Birnbaum, who made some terrific choices for the new offices (especially in flooring and lighting—nice work!).

The event was impressive, and even included some culture. It was a pleasure and a treat to have live performances by talented young actors from the Valley Youth Theatre. They performed a selection of works from the then-current show Narnia. (Full disclosure: My daughter is in an upcoming VYT show. And as long as I’m disclosing, note that tickets are available here for A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail. If you go, give extra applause to Rabbit; I’d appreciate it.)

Touring law firm offices is a little like assessing gradations of diamond quality through a loupe. I mean, most of these offices rival fine hotel spaces in their sophisticated opulence. Among that class of office, though, I must say that the firm has created interior spaces that would be great to inhabit for 1,900 billable hours per year or so.

What made my tour a real pleasure, though, was the company. Firm partner Fred Cummings and communications pro Andrea Kalmanovitz made sure I saw ever item I desired and were helpful in answering all my intrusive questions.

For example, on the nuts and bolts, in case you’re wondering: According to the firm, the initial Dickinson Wright Arizona office lease agreement is through 2026.

Andrea Kalmanovitz and Fred Cummings show me the new digs of Dickinson Wright's Phoenix offices.

Andrea Kalmanovitz and Fred Cummings show me the new digs of Dickinson Wright’s Phoenix offices.

Fred’s good humor was especially appreciated. He even showed me his office, which (honestly, Fred) could use a few homey touches.

One thing I was pleased to see is the new space for the firm library. I knew it must be much reduced, and it is. Here is a photo of that new area:

Library space, Dickinson Wright law firm, Phoenix, Ariz.

Library space, Dickinson Wright law firm, Phoenix, Ariz.

As firms make these moves, they must decide whether and how to carry over their voluminous volumes. Most, like Dickinson, must pare down to a select few tomes. For not only are fewer lawyers turning to the print books, but the massive weight of them can make tenant improvement costs prohibitive. For example, in a multi-floor firm, the floor that holds your full-blown library can cost many times your other floors, simply for shoring up that paper weight.

(Another approach I noted last year in Fennemore Craig’s new offices: Subdividing that smaller number of volumes among the floors and spaces to site certain volumes near relevant practice groups of attorneys.)

This library-reduction development is not simply an Arizona one, of course. About a week ago, the New York Times ran article on Kaye Scholer’s new space. It’s titled “So Little Paper to Chase in a Law Firm’s New Library,” and here is a photo of that storied firm’s new library space (Dickinson’s may be nicer):

New library space of Kaye Scholer, New York. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

New library space of Kaye Scholer, New York. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Back at Dickinson Wright, the firm used the interior design services of Krause Interior Architects: Brad Krause, Jennifer Consentino and Alexandra Ayres. Andrea Kalmanovitz also tells me that the firm has worked with KIA in connection with its previous relocation and various expansions of its facilities. “The color scheme (largely gray, white, blue and various wood tones) was selected by the architect to convey a modern image and to reflect the youth and vitality of the Firm. The space consists of approximately 45,000 square feet.”

Some more photos from my tour are below (click to biggify). Congratulations again to Dickinson Wright on their beautiful new digs. Here’s to your attorneys, whether they enjoy using print books or not.

 

How about a law office in an old cigar buidling? Puff on that idea! NHBAR historic building 1

How about housing your law office in an old cigar building? Puff on that idea!

How do we tell the story of law offices in historic buildings?

That’s something we’ve considered and attempted over the years at Arizona Attorney Magazine. I think (hope) that many of our readers agree with me that the life of the law may be illuminated by exploring the spaces we use for attorneys’ work. And when those spaces are vintage ones, we also manage to tell the story of our state.

Over the years, a lawyer I respect has urged me (a few times) to do such a story in the magazine. A history buff myself, I’m on board. But our challenge continues: There is no statewide inventory of historic structures that are now used as law offices.

So I keep beating the drum, urging lawyers to contact me with their buildings’ stories. (Send your information and photos to arizona.attorney@azbar.org.)

Meantime, I checked my mail this week and was greeted by a bar publication whose own exploration has yielded great fruit. Congratulations to the New Hampshire Bar Association for this month’s feature on historic law offices.

I spoke previously in praise of the NHBA’s premier publication. And now they’ve done it again. (Enough with the talent, already.)

In “Preserving the Past,” NH Bar News Managing Editor Kristen Senz and staff showed the results of scouring the highways and byways to find the best offices representing the topic.

Here is how their hard-copy pages came out. Note the great photos paired with the well-researched and detailed copy.

NHBAR historic law offices 1_opt

NHBAR historic law offices 2_opt

But this is 2014. So even if they’re writing about a 1700’s-era Colonial, publishers know they have to meet readers online too.

So if you don’t happen to have a print version of NH Bar News sitting around your office, you can go online to see the featured structures—and even more that wouldn’t fit in the publication.

You can view and read about all the historic buildings here. Well done (once again), New Hampshire Bar!

And now, you Arizona lawyers can help us tell the stories of your own vintage law offices. We’d love to hear from you.

Howard Ecker gazes at a model of Chicago.

Howard Ecker gazes at a model of Chicago.

Today, I’m pleased to share a guest post that could just as easily have run in Arizona Attorney Magazine. The topic and its coverage may be of great assistance to lawyers examining their office space options.

The author is Howard Ecker. Here is some brief background on Howard (a more complete bio is at the end of this post):

“Howard Ecker founded Howard Ecker + Company in 1975 as the first real estate company in Chicago devoted exclusively to representing tenants.  From working on one of the original leases in the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco in the early 1970’s to currently representing national accounting firm BDO USA, Howard’s 40+ year career has included many significant projects.”

Some of what he discusses is covered in the current Arizona Attorney in an article by James Robinson. I hope you find both of them useful as you plan your 2014. Here’s Howard:

THE LEGAL PROFESSION is not what it used to be. Our father’s law office is becoming unrecognizable; with the legal profession rapidly changing. It has become much easier to be strategic and efficient with office spaces.  With changes that have come about due to new financial models, emerging technology, and changing commuting habits, office worth is no longer easily predictable.

Howard Ecker, of Howard Ecker + Company is a national commercial tenant representation company and brokerage firm

Howard Ecker

How does a firm know when to grow, how to grow, and what tenets to keep in mind in these rapidly changing times?

It is a topic that I know very well due to my 40+ years in the commercial real estate business. Large and small law firms alike regularly contact us asking for advice on how to create office space that represents their unique culture.

Perhaps it’s wiser to think about what NOT to do, or the biggest mistakes law firms tend to make when expanding their office space. If you make it a point to avoid these, you will come out with a stronger, more strategic and successful business than you would have without it.

Mistake No. 1: Overspending

Firms often want to move into the newest “Class A” building and look to build out spectacular space with high end finishes and built-ins.  You need to keep in mind that often your clients are not willing to pay increased hourly billing rates / fees to cover the overhead for your accoutrements of wealth.  The result…a less profitable firm.  Also remember, the higher the rent and more expensive the build-out, the larger security deposit / guarantee the landlord will be looking for.  While it’s important that your space reflects the culture and brand of the firm, you need to balance that with the underlying financial impact to ensure the firm can support any increased operating or capital expense.  Additionally, you never want a client to say your rates are too high based on how you are living.

Mistake No. 2:  Not Considering Who Your Target Clients Are

For instance, if you are trying to expand your tech company practice, traditional office space in large office towers may not reflect the values of your future clients. Build spaces that attract your target clients, and particularly in locations where you want to attract top leads. If your goal is to attract technology corporations, you must build where they are in space where they feel comfortable.  Make it easy for you to market your services by building amenities that they can utilize, such as conference rooms with great connectivity and internal spaces that can host tech industry mixers or startup competitions.

Mistake No. 3: Treating Office Space as a Job Reward

Do not use the corner office or larger private offices as a symbolic reward for “making partner” if it causes the firm to use office space less effectively and efficiently.  Most of our clients are embracing the “one size fits all” mentality.  Building this way allows you to be much more flexible with the office space.

Mistake No. 4: Not Being Flexible for Future Growth

Firms often do not grow like other businesses.  Growth can often be more rapid when bringing in a new group of partners or practice group.  The same can happen in reverse, leaving you with significant excess space.  Pushing to have as much lease flexibility as you can with layers of options to expand, renew, contract and terminate is so important and, as we often advise our clients, worth paying a premium for.  That said, if flexibility is key, it is important to let landlords know at the start of negotiations.  That way you can quickly resolve if it will be an issue to get such rights and move on if the building cannot accommodate.

Mistake No. 5:  Failing To Consider Work-Life Amenities

Your staff, attorneys and partners work long hours.  It can help with both recruiting and retaining employees to locate your office near other businesses and services that enhance the work-life balance of your employees. For instance, fitness centers, abundant restaurant options, proximity to transportation, and even things like “doggie day care” can be big pluses for your employees when working long hours.

About The Expert

Howard Ecker founded Howard Ecker + Company in 1975 as the first real estate company in Chicago devoted exclusively to representing tenants.  From working on one of the original leases in the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco in the early 1970’s to currently representing national accounting firm BDO USA, Howard’s 40+ year career has included many significant projects.  Howard works with business leaders to align office location thinking with the long term fiscal and cultural needs of their business, connecting the worth of the company to its brand, culture and environment.  Howard is a member of the Board of Directors for Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.  He graduated from Tulane University in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian History and attended DePaul Law School.

About Howard Ecker + Company

Howard Ecker + Company is a national commercial tenant representation company and brokerage firm that represents the commercial real estate interests of tenants throughout the United States.  With offices in Chicago, New York, Denver, and Miami, Howard Ecker + Company helps tenants locate, negotiate and evaluate all possibilities in their search for office space.  Learn more about the firm here.

historic home Louis Emerson House

Louis Emerson House, Phoenix.

This past month, the Arizona Republic has been engaged in a noble bit of historic preservation: highlighting the most-endangered historic buildings in Phoenix.

Yesterday, the Republic staff featured the Louis Emerson House. As they note, “The Queen Anne/Eastlake style home is one of the few remaining residences in the Evans Churchill neighborhood. The Louis Emerson House has been relocated before to make way for the Arizona Center retail development. It is listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register.”

I was pleased to see that an attorney, Robert Young, owns the home.

“He believes two occupants lived in the house before 1902, but that is the year Louis Emerson and his wife Clara moved in.”

Young says, “Louis Emerson was a meat cutter for the Palace Meat Market. He used to advertise ‘Meat fit for a king.’” Young said he believes Emerson died in the 1920s. Clara remained in the house until the early 1930s.

That recurring feature got me thinking about other historic structures occupied by lawyers and law firms. Downtowns throughout Arizona are dotted with them, but they may be a declining resource, if the Republic series is to be understood.

Seeing the Emerson House reminded me of a feature story we published in Arizona Attorney back in 2001. It was a pictorial spread of great law offices housed in unique spaces. In that article, we covered and photographed a law office housed just up the street from the Emerson House. It is called the Oldaker House, at 649 North Third Avenue.

You can see the whole story here.

What do you think? Should we revive that feature and locate a new great list of attorney spaces?

Meanwhile, I point out that my Editor’s column that’s about to be mailed includes a contest of sorts. Send me a photo of your law office and/or desk, and I may send you a prize (read the column to find out what). (The whole thing is in the spirit of a previous blog post.)

Looking forward to seeing your space!

October 2013 Arizona Attorney Magazine coverIf your office is anything like ours, you’re deep into planning for 2014. Budgets, tools, hardware, software, goals, strategy: All of these and more are up for consideration.

That’s one of the reasons we dedicate a lot of our October issue pages to practice management software. That tool—what we call PMS—truly has become the engine that drives law practice.

It was the cover story in the October Arizona Attorney Magazine. You can start reading here.

If you’re busy, you may want to jump to what we fondly call The Big List. That’s where the rubber hits the road, software-wise.

Our coverage written by Susan Traylor also should be on your must-read list. And I would add to that a useful FAQ over at The Lawyerist. Here, Sam Glover answers some of your compelling PMS questions in a concise blog post.

What is working in your office? Have you gone to the cloud and are loving it? Or has it been more nightmarish than that?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Telescope in the new Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge. What's next for the profession?

Telescope in the new Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge. What’s next for the profession?

We’re all wondering what direction the legal profession is heading. Is its foundation sound, or are there cracks that threaten the entire structure?

That’s kind of a heavy concept for Change of Venue Friday. So instead, I will simply share the direction that law firm Fennemore Craig is heading.

Northeast.

Fennemore Craig Managing Partner Tim Berg addresses a pcked room at the new-office reception, June 11, 2013.

Fennemore Craig Managing Partner Tim Berg addresses a pcked room at the new-office reception, June 11, 2013.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

On Tuesday, I attended the firm’s new office reception. Or, more accurately, their new building reception, as they now occupy all the floors (save some first-floor space) in their new digs across from the Biltmore Fashion Park.

Their location is now 2394 East Camelback Road, Phoenix (Suite 600).

The event, hosted by managing partner Tim Berg, was nicely done. The spaces are bright and modern, and the walls are lined with the firm’s collection of striking art. Though I always liked their old offices on Central Avenue (in the building that once housed Phoenix’s Playboy Club), this looks like quite a nice building.

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 3The firm’s executive director, Kathy Hancock, gave me a tour of the spaces. She demonstrated how the building’s shape dictated that offices now come in quite a variety of shapes. Some lawyers, I’d guess, might take a tape measure to the square footage to assess “parity,” but the diversity of spaces is kind of refreshing.

Kathy also pointed out how the firm had reduced its huge trove of print law books. And those that remain have been divided and shared throughout the building. No more will the firm have a single large library. Instead, the volumes are housed near the relevant lawyers and practice areas, aiding ready access.

She also showed me the building’s less-traveled spaces, which houses the multiplicity of back-end tasks that keep a law firm moving. That space includes kitchens, including catering spaces, storage, and a staff lunch room that is large, sunny, well stocked and adjacent to a large outdoor deck.

In contrast, the lawyer lounge is quite a bit ritzier (click the photos below to enlarge). No surprise there. But the surprise came when I compared the sizes of the spaces. Seating and lighting may be more mod in the lawyer space, but that lounge is pretty diminutive in size—apropos in a profession where attorneys are encouraged to stretch their legs for a bit, but not get carried away and forget the work awaiting them in their office.

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 1

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 2

One charming feature of the lawyer lounge is a beautiful telescope on a tripod. It reminded me that all law firms must be seeking tools to gaze forward and predict the future of this profession. The telescopic view I gained from that lounge was merely a close-up of Macy’s department store—and Camelback Mountain beyond. The next few years will show which firms have raised their gaze even higher. Success in a changing marketplace will require it.

For some contrast, I share below one vintage photo of Fennemore Craig lawyers. Even if they had possessed the Hubble Telescope, I doubt they could have envisioned the profession as it is today.

Fennemore Craig lawyers, closer to their beginnings 127 years ago.

Fennemore Craig lawyers, closer to their beginnings 127 years ago.

I will leave you with one gulp-inducing fact Kathy shared with me: In the process of moving the 127-year-old firm, their leadership took a hard look at paper materials, deciding what had to be saved and what could be discarded. Ultimately, Kathy says, the firm threw out 15 tons of paper in various forms.

15 tons.

As I type, I am surrounded by my own stacks, as I’m sure you are. I must admit I have never taken a scale to them, but I blanch at the thought of the extra weight associated with my work.

Look around. How heavy are you?

Have a great weekend.

Every now and then, an editor runs across a magazine article that he wishes he had run in his own publication.

That’s what happened earlier this month when I came across a piece in the online version of a California county bar publication. The topic is trends in law offices, and it opens like this:

“The law firm industry is currently undergoing a significant transformation affecting both large and smaller firms, urban as well as suburban, that cuts across all subcategories of legal specialization. There are a number of issues simultaneously impacting the legal industry ranging from increased cost efficiencies, major changes in technology, cultural differences between attorney age groups, as well as the globalization of industry and commerce including law firms.

“At the same time, there is a greater understanding by architects, design gurus, attorney administrators and partners on the importance of design, layout, decor and functionality of the law firm office on recruitment, attorney retention, client and staff satisfaction, competition within the same legal subsector and increased bottom-line profitability.”

Congratulations to the Contra Costa County Bar Association for this great content. You can read the entire piece here.

Gibson Dunn law office design

Down in the article, I noted that the author addressed that hoary old beast, the law firm library. You may have seen that I wrote about libraries yesterday. Here is what the Contra Costa Lawyer piece had to say on the topic:

“Once the hallmark of a law firm’s heritage, bookshelves with rows and rows of law text, regulations, interpretation and rulings used to line many hallways. Major firms had entire law libraries with thousands of square feet of bookshelves, law books dating back to the 1800s, and ample space for research. However, over the past twenty years those symbols of firm stability have been almost entirely replaced by online resources. There is a growing realization that not only are most law libraries seldomly utilized, and that they may now portray old-school thinking not in line with modern technology, there are also economic considerations. Just a 500 ft2 space can cost the firm $150,000 at a $30/ft2 annual rent figure over a 10 year lease. If this amount was invested in technological upgrades how much more efficient would attorneys and legal assistants be in accessing legal information online?

“Mobile devices allow research from almost anywhere, while wireless connections facilitate printing and collaboration. There is also a growing use of legal outsourcing, either in the form of legal staffing companies or offshore research.”

In the October issue of Arizona Attorney, we’ll have some content on mobile lawyering (though we still love libraries!).

This morning, I am back in the office after a solid week’s vacation. It was many things, but among them, it was too brief. In fact, it may be safe to say that I am less than an office pleasure right now (what else is new, colleagues would say).

Because I know you’re wondering, here is a photo from our stress-free vacation.

Our Laguna Beach view, broken occasionally by a paddleboarder or two.

It has been quite awhile since I’ve taken that amount of consecutive time off. To do it required me to complete many tasks in advance, and it meant that my cohorts had to increase their already-high mindfulness of our shared work goals.

All of that effort led me to recalling how very hard it is for practicing lawyers to get away from work. That is especially true if you are a solo or small-firm practitioner. (I surveyed readers recently on how many actually take a vacation. Oy.)

Even lawyers need a break.

So on this Monday morning, as I gaze at my stacked tasks and as the pleasures of a California beach town recede into memory, I thought I’d share a few lawyer-vacation insights.

The first is by a Minnesota lawyer named Randall Ryder. It was last summer that he wrote his article “How Solo Attorneys Can Take a Summer Vacation,” but I think his advice still applies.

And then there is the more pointed commentary by lawyer Brian Tannebaum, which he charmingly titles “What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” His advice will not so much help you close your office for a needed break. Instead, out of his vacation he sheds some helpful light on marketing and customer service—as important for law offices as they are for restaurants and surf shops.

Have a decent Monday. That is my goal.

This month here in the State Bar offices, we are surrounded by packing boxes as we ready ourselves for a shift to another portion of the Bar’s building. Nothing like a move to get you to throw out stuff you shouldn’t be holding on to!

Our department is slated to be out of our current space by the close of business Monday. It appears that we’re going to make the deadline. So far, so good.

Our move got me thinking back to similar moves I’ve made when I worked in law firms. Mobilizing documents, technology and people can be a Herculean undertaking. And doing it without having productivity dip too severely is quite an accomplishment.

So that got me to wondering:

  • How many of you have lived through an office move?
  • What would you say is the single best decision you or your firm made to ensure a good move?
  • What was the single worst mistake that your firm made?

I’ll keep it all anonymous, of course, but I’d really like to know.

In my office, almost done

In the meantime, here are a few articles on the topic of law office moves. As the first—from Practice Blawg, of the Minnesota State Bar Association—opens:

“Anyone who has recently moved an office or home (or both at the same time) is familiar with the scatterbrainedness that accompanies the general sense of displacement. Having recently experienced the chaos fun of moving myself, I’m sharing my moving checklist here to hopefully simplify the process for someone else.”

Read the whole post here.

And over at Lawbiz, they have some helpful tips on moving your law firm into new space.

Wish us luck this week. We’ll be in our new space by next Monday.