The Amazing Shrinking Law Office

We reported on this trend a few months ago, and it seems to be gaining traction everywhere: Law offices are downsizing. The vast acreage of partners’ offices is being reduced to something more human-scale, and associates may spend as much time in shared collaborative spaces as in small private offices. Why the trend, and how are practice managers coping with the reduced storage space?

Writing in National Real Estate Investor, Robert Carr points to market economics that encourage the downsizing trend.

  1. Mergers – when two firms combine their operations, they can achieve economies of scale in their practice infrastructure, including libraries and staff.
  2. Fees – downward pressure from competitors such as online legal services is forcing many firms to reduce fees by lowering overhead.
  3. Connectivity – many tasks can be performed at home offices or via distributed support staff, reducing the need for full-time office space and on-site staff.

But when a law office is jumping on the downsizing bandwagon, its storage needs don’t magically downsize too. In fact, some practice managers find that there are more documents to file, and more back-up hard drives to be stored, than ever before. Many of them are expanding their storage capacity with high density storage systems. These mobile filing systems condense large quantities of paper or objects into a small storage footprint, right on the downsizing trend. If you’re a practice manager considering smaller offices, contact a storage professional for advice on high density storage.


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Healing the Healthcare Waiting Room

Sitting in a healthcare waiting room usually rates quite low on the good-times scale, and quite high on the stress scale. With today’s trend toward “patient as consumer,” designers are looking at ways to make waiting rooms more user-friendly.

A recent study at a major healthcare facility defined the shortcomings in waiting room designs, including:

  • Seating that blocked views to information sources (reception personnel, exam room entries)
  • Little space for personal belongings
  • Insufficient access to power sources for tablets and laptops
  • Lack of privacy and seating for family groups

The researchers recommended re-designing waiting rooms to:

  • Accommodate a variety of activities – work, rest, etc. – that might vary over time
  • Improve privacy while adapting to large and small family groups as needed
  • Increase space for personal belongings
  • Enhance access to power plugs for all our modern e-devices.

Reconfigurable furnishings have a big role to play in the new patient-centered waiting room designs. Seating and tables that can easily adapt to changing needs, even multiple times in a day, will go a long way toward creating an ideal patient-centered atmosphere. This video shows how one healthcare provider transformed their waiting room with reconfigurable furnishings:



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A Lab Design Space-Planning Checklist

We all know the old saying: “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” When you’re getting ready to invest in new lab space, the failure to plan can turn into expensive cost overruns.

A good checklist is a vital planning aid. Lab Design News has developed a space planning checklist to help determine your spatial requirements, including:

  • Current and future headcounts
  • Existing equipment inventory and future purchases
  • Venting and mechanical needs
  • Clean room requirements

Another way to guard against planning failures is to build flexibility into your space plan. Modular casework is a highly effective hedge against unanticipated demands on lab space. These cabinets can be reconfigured in dozens of ways, saving the cost of expensive new casework. This video demonstrates how one institution used modular casework to adapt to new space plans.

Plan ahead, avoid costly surprises, and talk to a storage specialist about maximizing flexibility in your casework design.


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You May Think You’re a Facilities Manager, But…

No matter what your job description is, you’re in sales. Sure, you studied construction management or engineering, but if you’re a facilities manager, sooner or later you’ll find yourself selling a proposal to the people who sign off on your budget.

Some sales are easier than others. An impressive new building or a news-worthy green initiative gives your bosses a chance to shine in the public eye. It’s tougher to get funding for less visible, tangible projects. Writing in Facilities Maintenance Decisions, Dan Hounsell suggests creating a “marketing plan” for your low-profile projects. He offers 4 starting points for creating such a plan, using the example of one of the least glamorous aspects of FM: deferred maintenance.

Hounsell recommends emphasizing (1) long-term cost savings; (2) sustainability; (3) job creation/retention; and (4) responsible management. Cost savings in particular can be a deciding factor, and a well-presented case for “spend a little now, save a lot later” can produce a quick approval.

These selling points are effective for any proposed expenditures that lack a “glam factor,” such as better spare parts management, or (dare we say) new storage systems. Give this marketing plan a try on your next budget request, and let us know the results!


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A Checklist for Managing Your Office Move

Moving is listed among the top 5 most stressful events in life. It’s hard enough moving from one home to another, but when you’re managing an office move involving hundreds of employees and thousands of equipment items, furnishings, and documents, it can be worse than herding cats.

British business management blogger Morris Barris recommends this checklist to help you organize your move into manageable steps:

  1. Set up a moving timeline – Know what is happening and when, and start your planning months ahead of time. The longer you wait, the higher the costs and the higher the stress.
  2. Get well-acquainted with the new space – Learn everything about the space, including how many power outlets there are and the quickest way to the fire exit. Plan your new office layout to avoid any problems you had in the old space.
  3. Communicate with your colleagues – Hold meetings and send frequent memos to keep everyone up to date and encourage two-way communication. Let supervisors know they are accountable for their staff’s office packing, equipment, and files.
  4. Bring your moving vendor on board – Start early to find a vendor who will work as a consultant, not just a furniture-pusher. A reliable, experienced vendor will offer advice to simplify the move, often saving you money in the process.
  5. Assign tasks – Make sure each staffer or team knows what they are responsible for. Publish a master plan so everyone is aware of their responsibilities.
  6. Alert your clients – A move is a great opportunity to stay in touch with clients. Let them know about the wonderful new space and how it will help you serve them better.

 A successful office move really boils down to good planning, good communication, and good vendor support. With those three things in place, your office move will be a walk in the park.


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Downsizing Without Downside: The New Law Office

All business managers look for overhead efficiencies, and legal practice managers are no exception. They’re reducing their real estate costs by thoughtfully combining new technologies with modern design styles and innovative space planning. Liam La Guerre, writing in the Commercial Observer, relates how several New York City law firms have successfully scaled back their office space footprints without creating a work-environment downside.

Among the space-efficient techniques La Guerre cites are:

  1. The wide-open floor design of newer buildings. The lack of columns permits complete use of all the area on a floor, so firms can accommodate more staff in less overall space.
  2. Flexible space utilization and furnishings. Common areas such as conference rooms and reception areas are used for a variety of purposes, and flexible furnishings are removed or rearranged easily to fit the immediate use. (See our previous discussion of reconfigurable furnishings here.)
  3. Tech-savvy millenials. The new generation of lawyers needs less tech support and fewer assistants, reducing staffing needs and their space requirements.
  4. Digital technology. Law libraries and legal documents are moving into the digital realm, and support functions like accounting are moving off-site into less-expensive quarters, thanks to digital connectivity.

Law firms will always have certain fixed needs for offices and closed doors to preserve client confidentiality, but with these new spatial efficiencies, some firms are already discovering they can downsize without any downside.

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How To Design a University “Admissions Magnet”

The competition to enroll top-tier students gets fiercer each year. To attract tech-oriented star students, forward-thinking universities are creating tech-rich facilities – new or re-purposed buildings offering the latest in technology connectivity for students’ tablets, laptops, and mobile phones. Designing these tech-rich learning environments requires an unusual degree of planning, as defined in this article in University Business.

Infrastructure is a big part of the planning picture. A primary consideration is furniture; architect Joe Sorci, quoted in the University Business article, prefers easy-to-reconfigure modular furniture which will accommodate both immediate and future needs. Sorci strongly recommends having a single supplier for layout design and installation, to avoid conflicts of placement and sizing when several manufacturers’ products are involved.

Along with a transition to BYOD (bring your own devices), and the shift from lecture halls to social learning spaces, these planning points can transform a building into an “admissions magnet” that also brings out the best in faculty and encourages the support of alumni and the local community.

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Case Study: Workstation Installation Success at Sun Life

Toronto’s Sun Life Financial received an up-front return on investment when they installed their new office furniture – mobile workstations that could be set up in a fraction of the usual installation time. A time lapse video shows how the savings were achieved; watch the timer in the upper right to see the actual elapsed time.

Every manager knows time is money, and as a financial services company, Sun Life was particularly motivated to make a sound investment decision in their selection of office workstations. The company opted for Swiftspace workstations, anticipating long-term ROI based on the products’ reputation for durability. As it turned out, the workstations’ easy set-up allowed Sun Life to realize an additional immediate return on its investment when the new workstations were installed: an 82% savings in installation costs when compared to conventional workstation installations. The complete details of the installation and the cost comparisons are included in this post from Swiftspace; get even more information at our Swiftspace page.

3 Rules for Office Space: Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility

Location, location, location still counts, but in the new era of the digital office, change is a constant. The race goes to the most nimble, and businesses that can adapt their office environments on the fly have the advantage when it comes to keeping overhead in check. Inc. Magazine’s review of office design trends highlights the moves toward flexibility that forward-thinking businesses are making.

These three trends in particular can have a positive effect on your bottom line, providing efficiencies in space utilization that save on real estate, furnishings, and build-out. Inc. Magazine also listed a few trends that tie directly to the employee experience:

  • staff lounges that are truly lounge-able
  • bringing the outdoors indoors
  • turning visible vents and conduits into a design feature

Collectively, all these design trends make for a office space that functions well on every level: physically, visually, psychologically, and financially – and those are rules we can all live with!


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National Guard Lockers Cut Uniform Losses

When they weren’t on duty, members of the North Carolina National Guard used to keep their uniforms and equipment at their homes. There were no lockers in the armories, and it seemed simple enough for soldiers to store their gear at home. But when soldiers went AWOL, or left the service, or moved away, their valuable uniforms and equipment often went with them. Adding to the loss, each instance of missing gear required a costly formal investigation. Altogether the Guard was losing $4 to $5 million in uniforms, equipment, and investigation costs.

The simple solution proposed by a Special Projects Team: Install lockers in the armories. When soldiers leave, for whatever reason, their uniforms and equipment stay behind in the locker. The savings would add up quickly. But this raised another question – was there sufficient room in the Guard’s seventy-seven armory buildings to install lockers? As the team analyzed the available storage space, they came up with some unexpected locker locations involving firing ranges and shipping containers. Read the full story at .


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