Bringing the Firm Back to the Office: Tenant Talks Recap Blog | Tenant Talks

On March 31, 2021 Formcraft hosted the latest edition of our virtual speaker series, Tenant Talks™. This time we wanted to talk about bringing the firm back to the office after working remotely for so long.  

Panelists included representatives from Formcraft, DLA Piper, Ballar Spahr and Zarwin Baum. Justin Henry, a reporter with The Legal Intelligencer, moderated the event for us.  

Our panelists discussed their plans for the future, how safety protocols have evolved, and how the physical workplace has changed for them. 

We learned a lot from the industry’s top experts on how they are planning for the future of the workspace in a post-pandemic world.

(More of a watcher than a reader? Watch the video recording of the event here.)


The first topic was virtual operations. Justin asked, how do you think the migration to virtual operations has shifted our way of thinking about the physical office?

Jeremy Drummond, Design Principal at Formcraft started the conversation by talking about being forced to adapt to a new way of working. Even people who were previously against working remotely, have had to evolve their way of thinking. He said there was a lot learned over the last year. 

Mitchell Kaplan, Managing Director at Zarwin Baum talked about his firm’s experience saying that they haven’t experienced much change in their overall footprint, but that change has happened in terms of what that footprint will look like. 

“We are prepared to make the changes that are necessary,” Mitchell said. 

Joseph Kernen, Managing Partner at DLA Piper said that his firm had started making changes five years ago. They changed over to single offices and created more collaborative space. He said this workspace design works well moving forward in a world where more firms are offering more hoteling and work from home options. 

Marcel Pratt, Partner at Ballard Spahr talked about ways to save costs and use the office space more efficiently. Not necessarily downsizing, but it’s really up to each individual firm and their needs to create a productive space. 

Marcel said, “I think the pandemic has certainly accelerated the urgency and how much attention we pay to our real estate.”


Justin asked: What are you hearing from other attorneys? Are you noticing interesting patterns in certain practice areas or practicing groups?

Marcel started off the conversation saying that in his experience, most law firms that he has talked to want to maintain some level of flexibility. He says flexibility is here to stay. 

Marcel also brought up a trend that he has seen amongst associates versus partners. He said that many associates would be okay giving up a dedicated office space in exchange for working from home at least some of the time. Whereas senior partners are more hesitant to give up a dedicated space where they can work. 

Joe said he’s seeing some of the same trends as Marcel in his own firm. He said that there is no “one size fits all” option for law firms and that there are a lot of varying opinions and feedback across all of his offices. Because of this, he reiterated that flexibility is key

“I have no doubt we’ll get it right because we’ll continue to be flexible,” said Joe. 

Mitchell said his firm is experiencing a lot of different and varying feedback in their surveys as well. 


Justin then brought up the topic hoteling and other in-office features and asked the panelists their thoughts.

Jeremy said that he sees an increase in hoteling in the future of the workplace. It may not be the same for everyone, but there will be some form of unassigned desks or free spaces to work in a lot of workplaces. 

He also reiterated some previous sentiments regarding some younger lawyers not feeling the need for a dedicated office. They want the flexibility of working from home some days, and working from the office on other days. 

Joe said he doesn’t see a future without some form of hoteling.


Justin then turned the discussion to maintaining a work culture in this new hybrid environment, especially for junior associates.

Marcel said that his firm is maintaining a good work culture by offering tools and programs to the associates who are working from home. Marcel discussed the topic further, adding that it’s important that every employee in the firm is aware of where the firm plans to go in the future. 

He said that maintaining a good work culture will be especially important as people start “un-remoting” and coming back into the physical office. At his firm, flexibility and patience will be key moving forward.  

Mitchell talked about the culture at his firm and the challenges of onboarding new associates while everyone is working remotely. They are working through these challenges with flexibility and personalization to keep up the culture and the camaraderie. He said technology has helped deal with these challenges. 

“What we’re seeing is technology that’s now going to follow and deal with the challenges we have in this evolving workplace,” Mitchell said. 

Joe echoed Mitchell in stating the challenges his firms have seen with onboarding new lawyers. He also noted that there is no one size fits all in terms of working remotely and working in the office. Each firm has to create a hybrid or a plan that works best for them. 


Next Justin asked about safety measures and protocols that firms are implementing as employees return to the office.

Jeremy sees both short term and long term changes that need to happen. Some short term changes being: wearing masks, taking temperatures, sanitizing frequently and other things that are already happening. He also talked about reevaluating and redesigning current office space layouts to have separate public and private spaces

Joe reiterated Jeremy’s sentiments and talked about common office protocols that will have to change. He said that he sees it evolving as regional and national authorities implement more changes and protocols, such as the CDC and local health officials. 

Mitchell and Marcel both echoed other panelist sentiments, saying that their firms have made similar changes. It reiterated the idea that safety protocols are an industry wide issue that firms are having to deal with on a daily basis.


It was great to hear legal industry leaders discuss how they’ve adapted to changes over the last year, and how their firms plan to move forward in the post-pandemic environment. 

Watch the full video recording to see our panelists:
-Respond to rapid fire questions and audience Q&A
-Discuss the poll results 

To watch the full TenantTalks™ video recording here.

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