A crowded market and new competition creating challenges for law firms

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From Ben Heller
Managing Director, Downtown Boston Brokerage

With the market favoring landlords now and into the future, law firms across Greater Boston are being faced with new challenges relative to their office space that will take both creative and strategic solutions to solve.

Over the next several years, an unusually large number of firms will be entering the market looking for new space. With a low level of supply and few new buildings under construction to meet their needs, law firms are facing some stiff competition among one another for limited inventory. But others in their industry aren’t the only ones these firms are competing with. Now, more than ever before, law firms are vying with technology companies for highly sought-after downtown office space, a radical shift from historical trends.

So, what is a law firm to do?

  1. Plan: First and foremost, this new wave of competition and changes in market dynamics mean that law firms have no choice but to execute a higher level of planning. While real estate is one piece of the puzzle, it is just a part of the equation, and those companies that plan early and understand their business needs before they make real estate decisions will benefit the most.
  2. Identify new solutions: The challenge here is that most under-construction projects in the area are being targeted by tech companies, and are also the buildings where landlords are looking to make a splash with a high-profile, innovative tech tenant, and as such, are designing the buildings to meet the needs of those types of companies. Projects such as The Hub on Causeway and 88 Seaport Blvd. are prime examples of this. That being said, renovations at traditional buildings like One Post Office Square might be the perfect solution for law firms looking for new space. The updates being implemented there will cater to both technology and traditional services companies, and could be an ideal location for a law firm seeking a new home.
  3. Stay in place: While this can be both expensive and disruptive, it has to be something law firms consider. If law firms don’t have any other options to choose from, the possibility of staying put and revitalizing their workplace could be the best option they have. As firms look to right-size, going from a historic high of 900-1,000 SF per attorney to a target of 500-600 SF per attorney, changes to their current workspace could result in better efficiencies, more open and collaborative spaces, and a higher level of appeal for the next wave of legal talent.

Times are changing for companies across all industries, but for sectors like the legal industry, which traditionally have been less adaptable to change, the transition won’t be without its challenges. To learn more about local and national market dynamics, I encourage you to download our 2017 Law Firm Perspective and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

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