The 2015 North America Law Firm Services Outlook Report, produced by the Colliers Law Firm Services Group, anticipates factors that will impact ways law firms use space and analyzes how important trends -- such as changes in lawyer demographics and the evolving technology landscape -- impact business. A key finding in this year's report reveals that law firms are increasingly focused on boosting efficiency and lowering real estate costs as the market slowly returns to pre-recession levels.

According to the report, law firms are transforming the way they handle their real estate transactions and utilize space as the legal field has shifted following the financial crisis. While the industry in North America is moving beyond the effects of the recession, the consolidations and extended transactions in the last two to three years have resulted in slower activity. Firms are now focused on ways to drive costs down and are exploring one-size-fits-all offices, in-boarding associates and potentially putting first-years and other legal associates into workstations.

Other key findings include:

  • The rise and resistance of the workplace strategy movement: The workplace strategy movement leverages technology, telecommuting and sophisticated design to provide maximum flexibility for space and to reduce real estate costs, as well as allow law firms to become more efficient and reduce their footprint.
  • Growth of technology and commodity legal services: Legal services are being commoditized, where clients will still pay top dollar for high-value legal services but are less enthusiastic about paying for process and content-related work. 
  • Reduction of surplus space:  Firms are also disposing of surplus space and looking at strategies to make that happen more efficiently. 
  • Nearshoring: Unlike offshoring, this strategy allows firms to protect confidentiality and intellectual property, and to serve customers in close proximity.
  • New construction: Some large firms are considering space options five to seven years ahead of time to contemplate new construction.