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In the words of national “guru” Oprah Winfrey, luck is what happens when good planning meets opportunity. These words became our mantra recently, when Crowell & Moring acquired Michaels & Bonner, adding 17 attorneys and 11 staff members to our 500+ population. At the same time, the firm was in the midst of a major litigation effort that required an additional 15 contract lawyers, and we were about to welcome 14 new associates. To explain our “luck” in meeting this challenge, I credit good planning: first, the decision to inventory office space that had been recently vacated; and second, the decision to lease and hold 10,000 square feet of lower-level space. Planning and acting decisively is what enabled us to make room for 57 new lawyers and staff in 45 days. As we began the planning process for the Michaels & Bonner integration, we realized that our open office space happened to be located in only a few areas of the firm. Our firm culture is such that we prefer to have attorneys integrated throughout the firm rather than arranged by practice groups. So, to ensure that these new attorneys and staff were dispersed, we decided that an internal move of some of our existing partners and associates was in order. Needless to say, moving an additional 50 lawyers and staff created extra demands for the project and the schedule. However, in just 28 days (it felt like a lot longer), we did that and merged two computer networks with different software suites, fit the Michaels & Bonner office furnishings into 20 offices in our space, culled and moved a collection of 386 books and publications — and also oriented, trained, and placed 28 new colleagues. But we weren’t done. At the same time, we added 15 contract lawyers and implemented litigation support systems for a four-million-page document review. To accommodate these space needs, we looked hard for opportunities to leverage current uses of our space. We reconfigured some of our larger unoccupied offices for these contract lawyers to share. When necessary, we staggered work schedules to allow multiple users to work in an office or work area. The two additional computer networks employed for this project, as well as the collateral support equipment and documents, were housed in other large unoccupied offices and in our lower-level space. Having an inventory of flexible space is a very effective way to solve many different kinds of space needs. INNOVATIVE OFFICING As you might imagine, our traditional options for office space during this period were exhausted. Since our demands temporarily exceeded office capacity, we had an opportunity to employ some innovative options: “hotelling” or just-in-time offices, “free-address” offices (sometimes referred to as “hot desks”), shared and group work spaces, and telecommuting. While unusual in the law firm environment, these innovative officing strategies have been in use for almost a decade in large corporations, particularly accounting and consulting firms. These strategies have produced annual cost savings in the millions of dollars for these organizations, and they proved invaluable for the firm during this period. � Hotelling This officing alternative provides for a shared office assignment on a first-call basis, similar to the way most law firms assign conference rooms. Office “hotels” may be dedicated space equipped to support multiple users. The furnishings allow for portable storage and the easy connection of computer and other technology support. Hotels may also be created from unused occupied space, for example the office of an attorney who is away from the office for extended periods. Generally, when a formal hotelling program exists, administrative or dedicated technology support is needed to coordinate the reservation of the space and the physical transport of personal storage units and other items. Office services or maintenance staff are also needed to ensure that the space is cleared for the next user. For more than 10 years, Crowell & Moring has used hotelling to provide offices for our summer associates. This strategy has worked very well by allowing the firm to use partner office space that’s available because of vacations and absences due to short- or long-term work out of the office. Our summer associates appreciate the higher level of comfort and amenities available in the partner offices, such as custom furnishings, more sophisticated technology, and more windows. An added benefit of this approach is that summer associates meet a larger number of our partners and associates as they move around our seven floors of office space. Our attorney recruitment and office services staff work together to assign hotelling space on a bi-weekly basis. A special nameplate on the wall is used to identify an office that’s being used by a summer associate. � Free-Address Officing With this alternative, work space is shared on a first-come, first-served basis rather than by reservation. Typically, the use of the space is for relatively short periods. Free-address offices, also known as hot desks, can provide short-term space needs for a trial team, particularly where members of the team are not permanent residents of the office, or where the attorneys or others (e.g., experts) may have another work site — in another office or at home. Little administrative support is required to maintain office space used in this way. At Crowell & Moring, free-address offices are used to support the temporary officing requirements of visiting lawyers or others. We have a few offices that are furnished and left vacant for this purpose, and in other cases, unused partner and associate offices are used. � Shared Officing This alternative allows two or more workers to share a single, assigned workspace and work tools. A group space, sometimes referred to as a war room, provides temporary office support for work teams. Group space works well when the work dictates that members of the team have immediate access to shared documents and each other. Crowell & Moring uses assigned shared office spaces to support the officing needs of some part-time and retired attorneys. In addition, the huge increase in the firm’s litigation work has increased the need for group workspace. The firm has accommodated these needs by dedicating regular office space, usually partner-size or conference-room space, for these purposes, in addition to establishing off-site facilities. Using our lower-level space is another cost-effective way to support short-term needs for group workspace. � Telecommuting. Recently, the firm has allowed some senior associates and partners to work on a regular basis from their homes and long-distance locations. Also, by request or to best meet client work requirements, the firm allows attorneys and legal assistants to telecommute from client offices. Because these telecommuting arrangements have been made on an informal basis, the firm provides the same support to those who work from home as to those who work at the office. When telecommuters are in the firm’s office, they generally use assigned but shared offices or free-address offices. For those working in client offices, we generally provide dedicated office space. This practice would likely change if the firm adopts a more formal program for telecommuting. While I am a personal advocate of telecommuting, I would caution any law firm considering such a program to review federal, state, and local laws that govern pay practices, taxation, general liability, and workers’ compensation issues. There are also work-related benefits and cost implications to consider, such as the furnishings and equipment required for such an arrangement. In the last 18 months, our firm has saved more than $300,000 through the use of these alternative officing practices. Our experiences and feedback have been very positive, and the administrative support required, except for the establishment of off-site facilities, has been minimal. No major modifications had to be made to our telecommunications and computer networking systems. We expect to continue to explore ways to use these officing strategies, particularly where we are able to attract and retain attorneys and other professionals, better support the requirements of our clients, and at the same time more effectively manage the costs of living on Pennsylvania Avenue. Terri H. Easter is chief operating officer at Washington, D.C.’s Crowell & Moring.

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