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WASHINGTON, DC-The local office of New York-based commercial real estate services firm Julien J. Studley has released the results of its National Law Firm Benchmark Survey, which concludes that law firms across the nation have been and will continue to occupy smaller office spaces. The leading factor behind the downsizing of law firm offices stems from the benefits of emerging technology and the use of low-grade space for office services.

According to the report, technology has allowed firms to decrease expenses in staffing, as well as equipment. The survey also determined that, “the traditional views of office space are becoming more fluid as law firms focus on more flexible and efficient office layouts featuring smaller offices and more centralized facilities.” The change in views is a recent occurrence. “In the past ten years with technology there has been a realization of space utilization and they have realized they can control overhead,”

Studley corporate managing director Sherry Cushman tells GlobeSt.com. “Real estate is the second highest expense for law firms; the first is salaries. Generally, somewhere between 7% to 10% of the gross revenue that a firm produces goes to occupancy costs.” That percentage, she adds, has come down in the last several years. It used to be that 10% to 14% of revenue went to real estate.

In addition to taking on less space, attorneys are also taking on less expensive space. Washington, DC, Cushman notes, is leading the way in the trend of leasing low-grade or, “concourse” space. “They’re taking cheaper space in buildings which enables them to put office services–mailrooms, storage rooms, etc.–in concourse-level areas,” she explains. Cushman points to nationally prominent law firm Morgan Lewis as a prime example. In its recent relocation to 1111 Pennsylvania Ave., the company was able to reduce the square-footage per attorney by 120 sf. Morgan Lewis’s library alone went from a 10,000-sf space to a 2,500-sf space with the replacement of many books with online sources and CD-ROMs, the utilization of high-density book storage, and the increasing of research staff. Cushman says this space-downsizing trend will continue and will occur more and more as long as technology continues to move forward.

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