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Why COVID-19 Could Shrink Your Lavish BigLaw Office

Law360 (May 18, 2020) – “Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP’s offices soar over Manhattan’s Central Park like a 600,000-square-foot palace within a skyscraper, replete with marble floors, mahogany-paneled walls, paintings and other such stately furnishings. The storied law firm pays $54 million a year for the space. Kirkland & Ellis LLP’s New York office spans over 500,000 square feet in a Midtown building, though it is dwarfed by the firm’s 675,000-square-foot Chicago headquarters that fills more than half of an entire office tower. Latham & Watkins LLP leases 407,000 square feet spread over 10 floors of a Rockefeller Center skyscraper. Right now, these offices are missing just one crucial thing: people. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced BigLaw firms to abandon their most opulent offices and transform their lawyers into remote workers, revealing to many firm leaders that their enormous real estate costs might not be as justifiable as they had been in decades past. Experts say the pandemic is sure to accelerate a trend among law firms to cut back on the kind of real estate typified by Cravath’s current offices. Real estate, after all, is usually firms’ highest expense after salaries. Firms have already been experimenting with ideas like shared offices and remote work, and the austerity that may be required to make it through the oncoming downturn is likely to budge even the most change-averse firms…”

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