Scaling down your office footprint makes smart business sense
When it comes to running a law firm, there are some necessary expenses you can count on to always be on the high side: rent, wages, insurance and IT.
Of those, rent is most easily trimmed with minimal impact. In fact, it can possibly bring improvement to service levels.
Conceptually, reducing floor space is a relatively easy task. You can relocate, shrink the office size, scale back on the number of offices, or reduce the size of your reception areas, common space or even conference rooms. For example, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman moved their Washington, DC-based office to a significantly smaller space that was less than a mile away. They decreased their overall square footage by 37 percent. In particular, partner offices were scaled back by 40 percent, to 200 square feet.
But by far the biggest impact will come from removing and reducing space-eating services and equipment from your potential floor plan.
A major part of space reduction is actually your cost recovery system. To that end, here are some tips we’ve learned while working on these issues with our clients.
TIP 1: COPY CENTER/CENTRALIZED SERVICES DON’T NECESSARILY NEED TO BE ONSITE
This is especially true if you are located in a metropolitan area. Will you still require some onsite services to address quick-turnaround jobs? Yes, but chances are you do not need the 24/7, dedicated operation you’ve had in the past.
The centralized operations of the past were built upon the concept of large volumes of centralized copy, mail and faxes, which have all dramatically decreased in recent years. Granted, this volume has been supplanted to some extent by the increase in print and scan volumes, but not in comparable quantities. Mail volume has been decreasing for years. And when was the last time you sent or received a fax? The majority of the jobs submitted are done electronically, making the need for a dedicated space in your office nonexistent.
You can relocate your services nearby to less expensive space, or, better yet, employ an outside service to deliver these services on an as-needed basis. And lose that cost recovery revenue that we have always been told is the reason to keep the work onsite? You can put those thoughts to the side. Those days are gone, along with pay phones and eight-track players.
TIP 2: REDUCE COPIERS AND MULTI-FUNCTIONAL DEVICES
It’s no secret that the majority of firms are vastly over-equipped in the number of units they have, and also the output capacity these units provide. A good printer to user ratio is 8:1; however, many of the firms we are engaged with are in the 1:1 to 3:1 range. The reasoning always sounds the same: It was easier to provide the units than fight the request, there is no master plan, the printers are cheap, we need the speed, etc.
These concerns were legitimate at one time or another, but a move or a restack is an excellent time to shift the paradigm. Take a holistic look at not only printers, but also your multi-function devices — not only from a capacity/volume viewpoint but also from a user viewpoint.
A few bonus tips:
- Establish a viable migration plan that offers additional functions prior to removing devices.
- Keep in mind first copy out time versus unit speed.
- Just because a printer is paid for doesn’t mean it doesn’t cost you anything.
TIP 3: DO YOU NEED CENTRALIZED FILES (OR ANY TYPE OF FILES) ONSITE?
The average attorney requires 25 square feet of file space. What if you could eliminate the majority of this requirement? There are two ways to achieve this result: go digital or go offsite.
The digital route means migrating your paper-based records to a digital format and placing your current digital files in an accessible portal. And if cost-effective, you can take this a step further and develop a plan to digitize your records currently stored offsite.
The other route is to relocate your records to an offsite location. Many storage vendors will house your records at their facility and allow you to access them either electronically or via rush deliveries.
MAKING IT HAPPEN
In summary, the smart firms are the ones consolidating space. The brilliant ones go for the win-win by consolidating space and increasing services to the end users.
In this day and age, all service delivery functions should be on the table for review and change. The old way of doing business is the surest way of not doing business.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Mattern is President and Founder of Mattern & Associates, LLC, where he assists law firms in developing an unbiased strategic direction for their business processes, while improving both the cost-effectiveness and the recovery of expenses for these services.