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The cyclical pattern for most large law firm office space goes something like this: sign a 10- to 15-year lease, build out the space, move in, retrofit as needed to keep pace with technology and practice needs, add on until there is no more available space in the building, then start the process all over again — more often than not at a new address. For Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the process would be no different — or so we thought. Four years ago, we engaged a real estate brokerage firm to assess our lease options in Washington, D.C. With our lease due to expire in May 2004, we were confident that we would have plenty of options. We liked our current location on Connecticut Avenue, and had not outgrown our space. Still, after many a lease addendum, our space was no longer working for us — we were not on contiguous floors, many of our support departments were fractured, our layout was inefficient, and our wiring and lighting were obsolescent, as was the overall look of our space. Gibson, Dunn’s wish list was short and sweet — 150,000-plus square feet of space in a Class A building with a premier address; easy in and out access for commuting; a symmetrical (read “efficient”) floor plate with contiguous floors; and a commanding window line and rooftop terrace views of the city. Sound familiar? There are — as always — only two basic options: move on or stay put. We never ruled out staying, but there was growing excitement about the possibility of moving, and the search was on. TO MOVE OR NOT TO MOVE? As the adage goes, timing is everything. We considered a number of new and existing buildings, but the delivery dates never seemed to be in sync with our lease expiration. This was not something to be taken lightly. An architectural firm was added to our real estate committee, and they walked us through the exercise of putting together a space program that would factor our projected needs through the lease term. They were also instrumental in drawing up test fits as a means of measuring the feasibility of each attractive option. It became clear over the ensuing 18 months that we had fewer choices than imagined. We remained optimistic, however, and at the end of 2001 we decided to pursue moving to a new building slated to break ground within the year. We looked forward to fulfilling our wish list as the future anchor tenant of 165,000 square feet on five contiguous floors. The building was located in our current neighborhood, complete with park views and a rooftop terrace. While the ink was drying on our letter of intent, we continued to work with our architect to identify core building structural elements to incorporate into our lease negotiations. Although work on this front progressed nicely, lease negotiations did not fare as well. It became apparent that the delivery date of the new building was falling behind schedule. We considered our options: holding over in our current space with steep penalties or moving to temporary space for up to a year. Neither was very appealing. STARTING OVER Back to square one. We quickly reviewed our remaining options and resolved that if we could obtain reasonable terms, we would stay in our current building. This entailed negotiating both immediate and long-term expansion space, then forging ahead with a complete renovation, gutting the space, and rebuilding from the slab up. To help us through this build-out, we also negotiated 18 months of approximately 25,000 square feet of vacant office space in our building to be used as “swing space.” While a floor was under construction, displaced Gibson, Dunn attorneys and staff would be housed there temporarily. We signed an amendment to our lease in short order and picked up the design process where we had left off. With all the design elements we had planned for our space in the new building, a mere cosmetic spruce up of our old office was no longer desirable. We wanted all of the improved efficiencies we would have enjoyed in the new building — a single reception area with a full-service conference center and state-of-the-art AV capabilities, interconnecting staircases between the two contiguous floors, a litigation center and document production rooms for practice systems, and casual gathering places for attorneys. Also, as with any new space, we planned for the future. That meant installing conduits for future AV equipment and upgraded wiring, even as we added wireless hubs throughout. We also kept many of the support departments flexible for equipment and/or functionality conversions down the road, opting for modular furnishings rather than fixed millwork. We wanted our overall look and feel to be light and open, with high quality “public” space and offices alike. We had to work quickly since the clock was ticking on our swing space and we would need every spare minute. The question of where to begin the construction was not an easy one, so we let the new plans dictate. As it happened, the floor with our new expansion space would include our new sole reception area, the majority of our conference center, the least number of attorney offices, and the new server/switch room. This floor also sat directly above street-level retail shops and would require the longest build-out schedule. The stars were lining up; we could start our project with minimal disruption to existing operations. Construction began as soon as we took occupancy of the swing space. Once the floor was vacated, we began demolition and then fell into a short-lived holding pattern. This was a deliberate step for two reasons: first, we had changed architectural firms, and additional time was needed for construction drawings; and second, we needed time to identify anticipated hidden conditions in the plenum — that is, the space above the finished ceiling and below the slab, where all of the duct work, lighting, and wiring is located. New build-outs in existing buildings are frequently more difficult and complicated than building from scratch. Base building drawings will not necessarily indicate all of the plenum changes made by prior tenants; some of these changes will undoubtedly impact a new design, affecting anything from location of new duct work to lighting to ceiling height. OFF AND RUNNING Construction soon was under way. Because almost everyone would end up in a different location, we began the office selection process concurrently. Completing office selection made it possible to work backward in moving people temporarily as we sequenced through the subsequent floors, always keeping one eye on minimizing disruption by moving everyone the fewest number of times possible. We now have three moves under our belts, and each time around it goes a little smoother. With the build-out nearing completion, we should be hitting our stride as the last two groups of people move into their finished quarters. To date, the construction phases have remained on schedule and within budget. I attribute that accomplishment to the tremendous team effort that our consultants and general contractor bring to the table each week. While no two build-outs are the same, I offer the following lessons learned: • Establish the budget and time line early in the process and stick to it throughout the design and construction phases. • Make budgetary and schedule allowances for hidden conditions in existing structures. • Get the general contractor on board while still in the design phase. • Don’t fight the floor plate — gain efficiencies where you can and move on. • Small committees are easier, but not necessarily better — we had a large design committee, and everyone brought value to the table. • Use your overtime dollars intelligently — escalate the schedule at the beginning of the process so that the finish trades have sufficient time to produce quality work. • Have the architect and the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing consultant on site during the layout to work through ceiling conditions in the field to avoid schedule setbacks. • Order materials early — our stone flooring was on schedule until Hurricane Isabel came along. • Be good to your neighbors above and below your construction floor — provide regular updates and work through any concerns. • Communicate, communicate, communicate — if you think you sound like a broken record, then you’re on the right track. • Find a good moving company and stick with them — they will carry you through thick and thin. • Above all, be flexible. We expect to complete our renovation project this July. When that glorious day comes, we will have close to 148,000 square feet of beautifully designed and well-built office space. We will not be on five stacked floors, but rather on three. We will not have to travel to the rooftop for the terrace; terraces are just off of our conference rooms one story above street level, in the heart of the Golden Triangle business district. It will be good to be home! Mary Walls is the office administrator of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Washington, D.C., office.

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