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Insights

Atlanta Lawyers Seek to Attract Talent, Bring People Back to the Office

Now more than ever, law firms are taking a thoughtful approach to their real estate decisions, using their physical space as a tool to bring both lawyers and staff back to the office, attract and retain talent, and create an environment that enhances overall collaboration, training, and energy.

For the last nine years, Cushman & Wakefield’s Legal Sector Advisory Group (LSAG) has conducted the Bright Insight report in partnership with ALM/American Lawyer. The report covers many aspects of law firm benchmarks and trends including real estate, strategy, business, talent, operations, technology, and the incredible impact that the pandemic has had on the legal sector and real estate decision making. 

According to this year’s survey results, 76% of firms anticipate making either dramatic or incremental changes to their workplace moving forward in addition to the changes they’ve already made to date. Across the legal sector, the workplace is quickly evolving to increase agility and workplace flexibility. Amid the evolution, firms continue to downsize and right-size their real estate square footage with new target ratios of under 600 square feet (or less) for many law firms moving forward. In fact, 65% of firms indicated their target ratio in the next five years will be 600 sf or less. 

These are trends we have noticed in Atlanta as well. Law firms are taking less – but more efficient – space, and are focused on locations, spaces and amenities to attract their attorneys and support staff back to the office. Shared and public spaces are key to collaboration. Flight-to-quality is certainly occurring with Midtown continuing to be the most popular location for law firms. Over the past several years there has been significant activity in Midtown with Smith, Gambrell & Russell occupying 120,763 square feet at the newly constructed 1105 West Peachtree, as well as Jones Day taking 155,600 square feet in a brand-new building at Colony Square.  

Nationally, overall occupancy in 2021 on a square foot basis by law firms decreased 14% on average for new leases, and 6% on renewals in all U.S. cities. Relocations also increased because of attractive landlord concessions (tenant improvements and free rent), which peaked at an increase of 54% over 2020. This concession increases minimized out-of-pocket capital costs, making a relocation more financially viable, while also providing the opportunity for a firm to right-size and implement new workplace strategies. 

The war for talent for both attorneys and staff has never been fiercer on both a national and local level. Law firms, especially large firms, are increasingly recruiting and attracting attorneys from competitors, enticing them with increased compensation, flexibility to enhance work-life balance, and opportunities with larger platforms and promotions.  

Additionally, firms are seeking to attract top talent out of law school. Atlanta is home to the Emory University School of Law, which was ranked the No. 30 law school out of 196 schools on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of the 2023 Best Law Schools and No. 25 on the National Law Journal’s “Go-To Law Schools” list which is based on the percentage of graduates employed at the largest 100 firms. That said, law firms are seeking talent from across the country, and Atlanta’s accessibility and cost of living compared to other major metros make it an attractive home for companies and employees alike. 

To read more about these and other trends impacting law firms, check out our Bright Insight report

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Cushman & Wakefield’s global Legal Sector Advisory Group (“LSAG”) consists of more than 450 global advisors that specialize in strategizing, creating, and implementing real estate solutions that support the business and people of today’s legal sector.
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