Flexible Friend: How city law firms have reacted to the increase in rent and a decrease in space with an increase in flexibility
As most partners and facilities managers in UK law firms will know, the price of commercial rents in sought after City of London areas has continued to rise since the end of the financial crisis. In fact, between 2011 and 2016 commercial rents have gone up by an average of 70%. Areas such as Shoreditch have seen rates triple in the past ten years.
This has led to law firms trying to concentrate as much of their operation into a condensed space as possible. Many law firms have engaged in “restacking” exercises as they try to maximise utilisation per square meter. Clifford Chances’ partners are encouraged to work from home when possible and Michon de Reya have instructed their lawyers to work from home as little or much as they want.
All of this shows that law firms have reacted to the rise in commercial rents with more agile working options to try to put hold on the demand for extra office space. This reaction can also be detected in the attitude many city law firms have taken towards temporary or contract staff involved in the legal review process, an area in which Altlaw has seen exponential growth.
Traditionally law firms kept the management of the full legal process in-house. Most litigation departments were used to having rooms full of paralegals engaged in the review and preparation of documents as part of the disclosure process. It was not unusual to have teams of up to 100 engaged in this process on a large matter, all of which required a desk, a PC and supervision.
Most lawyers would state that it was important to maintain close control of the process and therefore these temporary resources had to be under the same roof as themselves. However, as we have seen, as commercial rents have risen, the UK the attitude of law firms to flexible working arrangements has shifted. This shift has been visible in the Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) market in the UK.
Altlaw Managed Review Centre
At Altlaw we have seen a considerable rise in the uptake of our Managed Review Centre in the City of London. We first started offering it as a service in 2012, and at first there was some resistance as lawyers and partners grappled with the perceived competing elements of client confidentiality, quality control and frankly a loss of a revenue stream.
However, all these concerns have been put to one side as the space required to house large review teams has simply not been available. Plus the control and processes put in place by LPO’s like Altlaw have been adopted and accepted by both the law firm and their end clients. This has been reflected in the large scale and highly confidential governmental inquiry projects that Alltlaw have worked on this year.
So the solution is now there for lawyers who are working on litigation or investigation, who do not have the flexible office space that many took for granted, no longer have the in-house management experience but still have to review large volumes of data.
Firms such as Altlaw can flex with you to provide support and work with your legal teams to meet your deadlines- contact us today.