The trend of law firms moving into smaller, more efficient office space reflects the evolution of the practice of law and changing client expectations. That’s certainly true for Griesing Law, but the firm’s recent move to new space in Center City Philadelphia also reflects something more personal: the evolution of the firm’s identity.
“When we started as a small group and as a woman-driven group we needed to have an appearance that gave people confidence in us, and that was particularly important, we found, for large institutional-type clients,” said the firm’s founder and managing member Francine Friedman Griesing, explaining the firm’s thought process behind selecting its previous, much larger office space at Three Logan Square when it first started with three attorneys about nine years ago. “They really wanted to come into an office and feel secure like they did when they went to a megafirm and we wanted to convey that.”
But nearly a decade later, Griesing Law is an established firm with nine lawyers, four professional staff and a nationwide presence, so the need to try to impress or reassure clients with grandiose aesthetics has dissipated.
And besides, Griesing said, most clients are no longer dazzled by such things.
“I think if they walk into offices and there’s this big expanse with expensive things they are thinking, ‘Wait a minute, is this why I’m paying over $1,000 an hour for this person and do I want to pay for that?’”
Griesing Law moved to 1880 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1800, in Center City in late May after about two years of searching all around the city for smaller space that would serve a much different function than its previous office: bringing people together while also aiding the work-life balance that has always been important to the firm.
Jessica Mazzeo, Griesing Law’s co-founder and chief operating officer, spearheaded the new office search, which began well ahead of the Three Logan lease’s expiration date because the firm sensed it was time for a change.
“Our offices were empty a lot of the time because if we didn’t have someone working remotely from another state, we had them working remotely from home,” Mazzeo said.
Eventually, the firm settled on the space at 1880 JFK because it offered an enticing combination: the ability to greet clients with bright, sunlit space at the entrance and to foster a more collaborative environment for its staff, while reducing the firm’s overall footprint.
Mazzeo described the new space as “ideal.”
“It’s still in the same part of the city [as the firm's previous office] and it has ease of access for everyone who works here,” she said. “We have this nice circle space. We collaborate a lot and this gives us a closer sense of feeling for when people are actually in the office.”
Mazzeo said the firm also used the move to a new office as an opportunity to make some minor tweaks to its technological infrastructure, making its systems easier for attorneys to access remotely.
In addition, the firm, which Mazzeo characterized as ”paper-lite,” was also able to drastically reduce its file storage space to a single room not much larger than a supply closet. With digital backups of all of its files, Griesing and Mazzeo said the firm now houses some documents with outside storage vendors and was able to shred and discard paper copies of most everything else.
Along with the physical benefits of the firm’s new office, the address also offered an important intangible asset for Griesing, who describes herself as “very big on spiritual things and karma and good vibes.”
As she explained, the number 18—represented by the Hebrew word “chai”—is considered lucky in the Jewish faith.
“I’m the child of immigrant Jewish parents, one of whom was a Holocaust survivor, so this means a lot to me,” Griesing explained. ”When we look at space, Jess knows I want to know what floor it is and I want to know what the address is and I take it very seriously, kind of like feng shui. We were on the 36th floor [at Three Logan]. That’s double chai, that was important. [Now] we’re on the 18th floor of 1880.”
But for all of its serendipitous charm and potential, the space was far from move-in ready when the firm first discovered it.
“This space used to be the Israeli consulate,” Mazzeo said. “What it looks like today is not anything that it looked like when we first walked in the door because there was a lot of security and there was a bomb wall that took them actually a few months to be able to get down. When we came we had to use a lot of vision as to what we were hoping the space would look like.”
Visitors to the new offices are met with a large, bright conference room as soon as they enter, flanked by two smaller rooms for private mediations. Around a bend, there are attorney offices—most of which are smaller than the ones at Three Logan—lining the perimeter with support staff stationed just outside of them in a shared workspace.
Mazzeo called it a “closer, [more] cohesive working environment.”
“It’s interesting because our team really likes it,” Griesing said. “I wasn’t sure how people …would feel about having offices that are half the size. They seem to really like the closeness. Everyone here seems to be really happy with that and feeling that they’re more intimate because when we had such a vast space and so many people worked remotely you could be there and not see a person for hours because we were so spread out.”
And the reaction from visiting clients has been positive as well, according to Griesing.
“The second day we were here, we had clients here and they came in and they said, ‘Wow this is really a step up,’” she said, adding, “The client reaction was, ‘I like the vibe of this, I like the feel of this.’”