“What’s on the Horizon for Law Firms in 2021?” by Sharon Nelson and John Simek was featured in the March 2021 San Bernardino Bulletin.
Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Program, frequently speaks with us about the future of law. Recently, Jim recorded a Legal Talk Network podcast with Sharon which bears the same name as this article. You can find the podcast at https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/digital-edge/2020/12/whats-on-the-horizon-for-law-firms-in-2021/.
The authors continue the discussion below.
We were glad to see the backside of 2020. But 2021 carries many uncertainties with it and that makes predictions risky. Fortunately, we are not averse to risk-taking and it is a worthwhile effort to make predictions, especially about things we’re fairly certain will come to pass.
One thing that both lawyers and clients seem to have changed their minds about is the importance of physical office space. Until we read the Clio 2020 Legal Trends Report which surveyed a combination of Clio users and non-Clio users, we had no idea that 21% of law firms were already operating without commercial office space and since the pandemic, another 7% of lawyers have given up their commercial offices and 12% are unsure they’ll keep them going forward.
It’s a pretty good bet that those numbers are higher today. We have heard from some of our big law friends that they are actively looking to sublet some of their space. Those that were near the end of their leases were the lucky ones because they can negotiate for downsized space. We, on the other hand, signed a five-year lease in February 2020. Great timing, huh?
We may also see rotating offices (yes, there will be institutional resistance), where lawyers showing up to work get assigned to an office with the office space rotating among the firm’s lawyers. Large, luxurious partner offices may also become a thing of the past. The physical footprint of the office may be reduced but virtually everyone seems to agree that firms of a certain size need some kind of office in which to conduct meetings, have a receptionist to deal with mail, packages, etc.