Office Moves and Satellite Offices

Your current office space may have been a great choice when you moved in. But as time has passed, that once-perfect office may seem anything but ideal. The space may be the wrong size, or in the wrong location. And you must decide whether to move, stay put, or keep your existing office and open a second location.

Should You Move?

An office move is expensive and disruptive, so it shouldn’t be undertaken without careful thought. First, identify why the current space isn’t working well and see if you can fix the problem. For example, if your staff is cramped in the current space, investigate whether you can use the space more efficiently by eliminating library space and reducing the size of partner offices or file rooms. If the space is too large, consider subletting a portion to another law firm.

If the issue involves the landlord, try to negotiate a solution. If you are paying more than market value for rent or your office space needs upgrades, try to build the upgrades and reduced rent into your next lease, or ask for a couple of months free rent in exchange for a lease renewal.

Some problems are harder to fix and may signal that it’s time for a move. Demographic changes may have made your office location less desirable than it once was. Your landlord may be uncooperative, neglecting routine maintenance and allowing the building to become run-down. Or you may find that your current location is inconvenient for your attorneys, staff or clients.

Finally, your move may be motivated by personal preference or financial concerns. Another part of town or another municipality may offer incentives for businesses to locate there, making a move economically desirable. You may prefer to be closer to the courthouse or in a more vibrant part of town. Or you may be ready to purchase a building.

Before deciding whether to move, do a cost-benefit analysis. Research the cost of a move, both in dollars and in attorney and staff time. Include equipment or building upgrades that you will need as a result of the move, as well as any costs associated with getting out of your current lease. Then compare the cost of a move to the cost of making renovations or changes to your current space. Also assess the potential cost of rent in a new location compared to the rent you are paying now. Finally, evaluate whether a new location will help your firm increase its revenue.

What About a Satellite Office?

As an alternative to moving, a satellite office can give you a location that is convenient to your client base, or it can allow you to branch out and serve clients in a growing locality. For example, a divorce firm may have several clients in a rapidly growing suburb. By establishing a convenient satellite office in that suburb, the firm may gain more clients.

Experts caution, however, that operating two offices is considerably more complicated than operating just one. You must coordinate work, files and calendars across two offices; manage employees who work remotely; and ensure ethics compliance in the remote office. You’ll also need to spend time and money marketing and networking in your new locale – on top of the efforts you’re already making near your home office.

For this reason, some experts recommend that you don’t even consider a second office until you have achieved the maximum client base you can hope to get in your first location.

Coordinating the Move

Whether you’re moving to a new location or opening a new office, careful planning and coordination is key to making the transition as seamless as possible. Suggestions for a positive moving experience include:

  • Appoint or hire someone to act as project manager to organize and manage the moving process.
  • Consult your staff on office design. They can offer a valuable perspective and will feel more invested in the move if they have input.
  • Make sure your new space will have adequate electrical and technological connectivity for its current and projected needs.
  • Consider having a “clean up day” to encourage everyone to tidy their work areas and get rid of excess clutter before the move.
  • Hire a reputable moving company and make sure other necessary professionals such as IT people are available on moving day.
  • Immediately notify clients, opposing counsel and the courts of your move.
  • Schedule the move for a weekend to minimize disruptions. Arrange to have everything in place and all phones and equipment hooked up before Monday morning.
  • Don’t forget to reward your attorneys and staff for their hard work.