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Insights

Chicago Law Firms Target Best-in-Class Buildings to Attract and Retain Talent

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.  

These are trends we have noticed in Chicago as well. Collaboration and amenities are key, and spaces like coffee bars with lounge seating that resemble hotels more than traditional law firm office space are becoming increasingly common. The most popular location in the city for law firms is downtown Class A high-rises. Firms like Kirkland & Ellis and Willkie Farr & Gallagher have recently taken space in trophy towers along the Chicago River. Law firms remain committed to Chicago and are taking great space in new trophy buildings to recruit and retain the best talent in the marketplace.  

The war for talent for both attorneys and staff has never been fiercer on both a national and local level. Young lawyers and employees are increasingly opting for medium firms who offer flexibility. As part of recruitment and retention, it will be more and more important for senior partners to help maintain culture through mentorship and helping young employees with networking to continue their firm’s legacy and culture as well as secure business opportunities.  

Chicago is a great recruiting town offering diverse talent from the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola University and DePaul University. With a more affordable cost of living compared to other major metros and access to arts, entertainment, restaurants, and more, it is a place employees and companies want to be located. 

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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