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San Francisco Bay area firms are looking for a makeover. Struggling to cope with skyrocketing rents, many firms are redesigning their offices to fit more people into less space. As a result, partner offices are shrinking, libraries are contracting, and office sharing schemes are under consideration. Pillsbury Madison & Sutro decreased its space when it moved into new digs at 50 Fremont Street in San Francisco last year. The firm, previously spread out in two different buildings, now occupies 210,000 square feet on 11 floors. “We went from fairly spacious offices — roughly 1,000 square feet per lawyer — to standard size offices” of 700 square feet per lawyer, said Patrick O’Leary, Pillsbury’s director of operations. But he said the lighter, airier building design gives the feeling of more space. The firm also reduced the size of its library by one-third. “Pillsbury had a showpiece library, a two-story space that looked like a movie set,” says Doug Zucker, vice president of Gensler & Associates, the architectural firm that designed Pillsbury’s new offices. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker also cut the size of its library when the firm relocated its San Francisco office three years ago. “We have almost a totally virtual library” with stacks and stacks of CD-ROMs, said Kirby Wilcox, managing partner of the firm’s S.F. office. Firms also are designing their space to accommodate future overflow. For example, partner offices in Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco headquarters have sliding white board panels that can be closed to create two separate rooms the size of an associate’s office. MoFo added an eighth floor to its San Francisco headquarters a couple of months ago for a total of 220,000 square feet. Keith Wetmore, managing partner of the firm’s San Francisco office, said the firm expects to be at or over capacity by the end of the year. Other firms have established same-size offices for their partners and associates. Zucker said Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian’s offices are all the same size, as are Pillsbury’s Palo Alto offices. Another space-saving option is to implement a so-called hoteling arrangement, in which attorneys reserve space at the firm for a given time. MoFo’s Wetmore said the firm’s New York outpost is exploring a hotel model for attorneys that work in more than one office. “At this point it’s just conceptual,” Wetmore said, noting that accounting firms have already implemented this practice. Gensler’s Zucker said firms may at some point consider partnership suites for retired partners. “It’s a sensitive issue,” Zucker said. “People go ballistic when they helped build a firm, and you’re talking about taking their office away.” At Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison several retired partners who don’t keep regular hours are sharing office space. Karen Johnson-McKewan, managing partner of the San Francisco office, said the firm also is considering a hoteling arrangement for these partners. But she said retired partners with a regular work schedule will retain their offices. With leasing costs at an all- time high, space efficiency is a crucial issue for firms. While firms won’t reveal how much they pay in rent, real estate consultant Dan Mihalovich said class A buildings at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center are going for $90 to $100 per square foot, up from about $60 per square foot last year. “At $90 to $100 a foot, the market is paying you to figure out a way not to lease more space,” Mihalovich said.

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