We all know photocopiers, right? Not according to a deposition transcript.

We all know photocopiers, right? Not according to a deposition transcript.

How many of us have conducted depositions, or at least sat in them? Has it ever occurred to you that the result could be a compelling piece of … art?

Me neither. And that’s why I am so taken with a New York Times project that brings cold depo transcripts to life. And you can play a role too!

The verbatim project is described by NYT staffer Jason Spingarn-Koff:

“This marks the debut of a new series, presented by Op-Docs, that transforms verbatim (word for word) legal transcripts into dramatic, and often comedic, performances. Here you will find re-creations of actual events from the halls of law and government. You, our readers, can help us find material for future episodes. Have you come across court trials, depositions or government hearings that you think are surprising, bizarre or baffling—and lend themselves to performance? We especially seek original, publicly available transcripts, along with details about the source. Email us at opinion.video@nytimes.com and include ‘Verbatim’ in the subject line.”

So your own transcripts might become fodder for a compelling video performed by professional actors. (Your ethics-rules violations may vary.)

Read more about the project and the inaugural video here.

A hat-tip to Rick DeBruhl for pointing me toward the ABA Journal’s mention of this NYT project.

And now because it’s Friday and we need a chuckle, I offer you the video itself, in which lawyers and a deponent argue over “what is a photocopier?”

Have a wonderful—and dramatic—weekend.

The photocopier struggle is real.

The photocopier struggle is real.

Feeling squeezed in your office? Shrinking office space is a national trend.

Feeling squeezed in your office? Shrinking office space is a national trend.

My title today—asking about law office square footage—is more than just a snarky opening designed to draw you in. (It worked, though, didn’t it? The title has something for everyone: Big-firm partners who bemoan the loss of space, and the rest of the world that pillories big-firm partners. You’re welcome.)

No, my title reminds me of a quiet revolution occurring in law firm offices (and in hallways, lobbies, common areas and lunchrooms. And don’t get us started on law firm libraries.)

That revolution (or devolution) is yielding smaller footprints, even for (some) bigfoot rainmakers.

A blog post recently sized up the size issue.

Closer to home, commercial real estate expert James Robinson wrote for us last fall in an article titled “Can the Credenza: Technology, Economics Change Law Firm Offices.”

He well describes the changes yielding small spaces, and he says much of the shift is attributable to changing technology. He (kindly) leaves aside the impetus of a bad economy and declining collected fees.

You should read James’s article; it even includes pictures!

What do you think? Is this a tempest in a shrinking teapot? Or could the change in office size signal (subconsciously) decreased horizons for a profession? And does that diminution have a demoralizing influence?

I’m no psychologist (or attorney whisperer); I’m just spit-balling here.

But I’d like to hear what you think. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

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!

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.

Want to be office mates?

That’s one of the benefits on offer as you consider the fact that the State Bar of Arizona has some excellent office space available for lease.

The three-story building at 4201 N. 24th Street in Phoenix has many amenities, including a central location, ample parking and ready access to the Bar’s many benefits and services, including its brand-spanking-new Daniel J. McAuliffe CLE Center.

I’m no real estate mogul or anything, but I’m told there are great possibilities available. On this Change of Venue Friday, though, I also can recommend the space because of its proximity to Arizona Attorney Magazine and its award-winning staff.

Of course, we at the magazine welcome interactions with all Bar members, anytime. But lawyers who office in the building might drop by on occasion to make suggestions, pitch stories, or even share a cup of coffee. We like coffee quite a bit, and conversation about law and law practice just as much.

Some detail about the real estate opportunity is here. To see the complete (and well-designed!) flier, click here.

Your next step, if curious, is to contact my wonderful colleague Lisa Bormaster Fontes (602.340.7230 and lisa.bormaster@staff.azbar.org). Lisa is much closer to a real estate mogul than I am, which means she will actually be able to answer your questions.

And for what it’s worth, she’d be great to share a coffee break with, too.

Have a terrific weekend. Here’s hoping I see you by the mailbox some morning.