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Los Angeles 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. 

In Los Angeles, firms are looking for best-in-class buildings to attract and retain talent. Firms are building space that have lots of opportunities for collaboration and are looking for projects that have on-site conference centers, gyms, and other on-site or walkable amenities. The war for talent for both attorneys and staff has never been fiercer on both a national and local level. 

For the most part, firms are leasing space in the downtown Los Angeles and Century City submarkets. A little more than 50% of the Am Law 100 firms have an office in both locations. Downtown is near the courts and all of the mass transit systems have a stop in downtown Los Angeles, so offices there serve a wide population. On the Westside, Century City is where most law firm partners live and where private equity, tech and entertainment companies are located so they want to be close by. 

Downtown LA has been very active with several law firms inking long-term deals including Orrick’s relocation and downsizing from 66,000 square feet (sf) to 26,000 sf; Quinn’s downsizing within their current location from 135,000 sf to 65,000 sf; Alston’s relocation and downsizing from 75,000 sf to 50,000 sf; and O’Melveny’s is downsizing within their building from 186,000 sf to 100,000 sf. 

Generally speaking, law firms are coming off 10-to 15-year leases. Between the shift to a hybrid work model and the fact that law firms are building space totally different today, law firms are deciding to sign long-term leases and build space that can retain and attract attorneys.  

Century City has had slightly less law firm activity simply due to when leases are rolling and this submarket is one-third the size of downtown Los Angeles. Notable deals include Sullivan & Cromwell’s three-year renewal at the same 52,000-sf footprint and Shook Hardy’s two-year renewal at the same 9,000-sf footprint. Additionally, Sidley recently exercised a ROFO for 3,600 sf and have about 46,000 sf and Paul Hastings’ exercised a ROFO for 8,900 sf and now have about 38,000 sf. Miller Barondess relocated and expanded from 18,000 sf to 30,000 sf and Willkie Farr, which is new to the market, leased 55,000 sf on a long-term basis. 

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 on a national level 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.

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

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Legal Sector Advisory Group
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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