Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Law Firms Try 'Hoteling' For Some Partners

National Law Journal, The Law Offices of the Future Are Here, and Your Name Might Not Be On the Door:

Reed Smith may be among the first Am Law 100 firms to try "hoteling" for some of its partners.

When Reed Smith moved 35 lawyers from a Falls Church office building into the new Tysons Tower on Monday, two partners gave up the very thing they had worked years for: Their names on office doors.

Those Northern Virginia-based lawyers and others in the San Francisco office are part of a pilot program Reed Smith has started to try “hoteling,” or the practice of lawyers sitting at changeable temporary desk spaces when they work out of their home office buildings.

“I think it’s a really cool concept,” said Julia Krebs-Markrich, a health care regulatory lawyer in Tysons Corner who served on Reed Smith’s executive committee from 2012 until last month.

She traded in her permanent desk for hoteling on Monday.

“There are lots of visitor offices in the Tysons office, and I’ve plunked myself down in one of those,” she said. Krebs-Markrich’s biggest challenge, she said, was scrutinizing what she needed in a physical workspace. Decades of old article clippings, paperwork and files went out with the move. She realized nearly everything now is available online.

Hoteling is the future for the legal industry, say consultants at both CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield real estate brokerage firms. However, lawyers, especially those at Am Law 100 firms, have long resisted relinquishing the four walls each can call his or her own. This industry still has special affinity for corner office views, paper piles and tchotchke collections.

Several Washington firm leaders have told The National Law Journal in recent months their partnerships weren’t ready to try hoteling, even with a move to a modernized or renovated building.

Even at Reed Smith, many agreed. The Northern Virginia managing partner, Carol Honigberg, said she thought about hoteling but decided against it. “Do I have stuff I like in hard copy? I’m a real estate lawyer and have rolls of plans,” she said. “What do I do with those, and how does that work if I don’t have an office?”

Reed Smith began exploring the hoteling concept last May, when it started using computer Internet Protocol address tracking software to see where its attorneys logged on each day. The firm’s lawyers occupied about 70 percent of Northern Virginia lawyer offices on a normal workday. Occupancy rates declined on Mondays, Fridays, over holidays and in the summer.

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Much as I like the concept of having my own bit of real estate, however tiny (you notice the "old" in my name?), I fear the move online is inevitable.

Posted by: Old Ruster from JDJunkyard | Mar 29, 2016 9:29:38 AM

This worked well for Fed Govt execs traveling to the different work sites for which they were responsible. I know "govt" and "efficiency" rarely go together, but it did work and saved us quite a bit on real estate costs, which is the #2 highest cost after labor.

Posted by: Jack Manhire | Mar 29, 2016 7:47:22 AM

But if you;re never home can you be away from home (etc.)?

Posted by: mike livingston | Mar 29, 2016 5:41:45 AM