Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Are Law Offices Turning Into Hampton Inns?

jay reevesHotels aren’t just places to stay when you’re traveling – they’re also places to work at large law firms.

A trend gaining traction at the largest of the nation’s firms is work-space “hoteling.” The idea is for lawyers to swap their cherished corner offices for temporary desks they share with one or more colleagues.

Real estate consultants say hoteling is the future for the legal industry, though many law firm managers remain skeptical.

One enthusiastic adopter is the international firm Reed Smith. It hit upon the possibility of hoteling a year ago when it used computer Internet Protocol address tracking software to gather data on where and when their attorneys were working each day.

What the firm discovered was that 30 percent of the offices in its Northern Virginia location were empty on any given workday. On Mondays, Fridays, holidays and the summer, occupancy rates plunged even lower. The missing lawyers were working at home, out on assignment or off duty.

(Irrelevant aside: one wonders why the firm had to resort to Big Brotherish snooping to learn this. Couldn’t it have figured out how many offices were empty by going around and knocking on doors?)

Realizing it was paying for square footage that was being utilized only 70 percent of the time, the firm tried something different when it moved 35 lawyers from its Fall Church site to a new building. The new building had only 28,000 square feet, compared with the previous 54,000, which meant every attorney’s individual office got smaller. And not every lawyer got an office. Several partners volunteered to do without one, agreeing instead to work at changeable, temporary desk spaces.

Less Paper, Less Privacy

So how are the hotel residents digging their new digs?

One is pleased. She says giving up a full-time office forced her to cull through piles of old files and paperwork and toss what was useless. Which meant almost all of it. She realized pretty much everything she needed was online.

“I think it’s a really cool concept,” said the happy hotel-dweller, who served on the firm’s executive committee. “There are lots of visitor offices, and I’ve plunked myself down in one of those.”

But the firm’s managing partner was not ready to give up her private space.

“I’m a real estate lawyer and have rolls of plans,” she told the National Law Journal. “What do I do with those, and how does that work if I don’t have an office?”

How attached are you to your desk, credenza and family photos? Would you give them up willingly to work at a shared desk?


National Law Journal

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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