That is exactly what firms like Drinker Biddle & Reath, Ballard Spahr and Reed Smith have done. All three firms recently renegotiated their current leases or signed on for a move to a new building in Philadelphia and all three gave up a couple of floors of office space in the process.
Drinker Biddle Executive Partner Andrew C. Kassner said the firm's space at One Logan Square in Philadelphia was designed 10 years ago and is "extremely inefficient." Law firms don't need large libraries, fax rooms and "cavernous" document support areas, Kassner said.
"It's just a waste of a lot of space," Kassner said. "The way all law firms are using space under their current designs is just 10 years past due."
Drinker Biddle hired an architect, created a team to review possible real estate options and organized a team to detail what it would want from new space, all with the goal of reducing its space by 25 to 30 percent. The firm ultimately decided to stay in its existing location but downsized from 10 floors to seven and a half. Kassner said that while the firm is reducing space, the new design will allow for it to house more lawyers than it currently has.
Kassner said Drinker Biddle has poured "millions of dollars" into technology through a three-year capital plan to make sure that the firm's technology is able to meet client needs. The firm might not have fewer secretaries because of the increased use of technology, but they will be doing different things, Kassner said.
Secretaries will be put in one area and work in a more collaborative environment, he said. Walls will be taken down and offices will have glass doors to let more light in. Conference rooms will be redesigned to better meet the needs of the attorneys using them.
Kassner said Drinker Biddle is still deciding how its attorneys will be placed in the new design. Practice groups may be placed in their own areas or attorneys may be mixed up to promote cross-selling, he said. These are decisions that will be made over the next year or so as the firm finishes out its design plans. The new lease begins in June 2014 and goes through 2029.
Reed Smith will move from its long-held offices in One Liberty Place to Three Logan Square at 1717 Arch St. in 2014. The move will reduce the firm's space in Philadelphia by more than 25 percent and reduce the square foot per attorney by 21 percent while still allowing for increased attorney headcount, the firm said.
The reduction of space is a recognition that the firm's employees are "highly mobile, flexible and ever-changing," said Pat Hiltibidal, Reed Smith's chief of office services, in a statement.
"The focus on the design and development has been to create client facing spaces which facilitate high touch meetings with enhanced technology as well as collaboration spaces for our attorneys which encourage teamwork and idea exchanges. We will create the space for areas like our new café with a barista and even the clustering of secretarial and staff work groups," she said.