Lawyers are losing workspace at the rate of roughly one square metre a year, as they are released to roam beyond their offices into co-working spaces and what architects tout as “five-star” in-house hospitality venues.
The latest research paper on the legal workplace by architecture firm Bates Smart found on average lawyers are being allocated a smaller space of about 16 square metres per person, compared with 24 square metres in 2007.
That space is predicted to fall to 12 square metres per person by 2020, while some firms will experiment with 10 square metres.
Firms are squeezing lawyers into smaller areas as they seek to cut rent and use space as efficiently as possible, given rent often represents the highest cost to a law firm after lawyer salaries, the report says.
“We won’t have partners occupying the corner office and staying there for 20 years. That long-term ownership of a desk is probably a way of the past,” Bates Smart architect Kellie Payne said.
The report, which analyses close to 30 big legal fitouts in the past five years, found that only 35 per cent of legal staff now have an office compared with 75 per cent in 2007. By 2020 Bates Smart predicts 90 per cent of legal staff will have left offices for open-plan. But lawyers need not fear hot desking.
“I would never have hot desking on the cards for law firms because they’re not like a sales team who are out of the office for long periods of time. They need to find each other and work together,” Ms Payne said.