Planning a Successful Law Firm Move
by Marcia Watson Wainess
(County Bar Update, October 2002, Vol. 22, No. 9)


Planning a Successful Law Firm Move

By Marcia Watson Wainess, Law Practice Management Section Executive Committee. Wainess is a business coach to lawyers and law firms at Green Hasson & Janks, LLP, business advisors and CPAs. She can be contacted at The opinions expressed are her own.

For the managing partner or administrator, planning a relocation or remodel can be a daunting task. Early organization is key to the successful build-out of new space. Staying abreast of trends that impact the way businesses work today and will work in the near future is also critical. With so much at stake, where do you start?

Begin with a detailed list that covers all categories for a move budget. The firm should retain experts, such as real estate brokers, interior architects, contractors, and consultants, early in the process so they can walk proposed locations and provide insight that will assist the firm in its lease negotiations. These experts can help determine which location is the most cost and space efficient. Sometimes the building that has the least expensive rental rate may not be the best choice due to the layout of the building’s floor plate (the size of one floor) and the design of the building’s usable square footage.

We work in a world in which technology plays a significant role in the design and utilization of space. More employees will telecommute. Businesses will increasingly communicate with their clients/customers over intranets and the Internet. The architecture and interior design firms study these and other workplace trends to assist them in designing space that will work now and for the duration of the firm’s lease.

Once you know where you are moving, it is important to create a move checklist and timetable. This checklist should include critical items, who is responsible for ensuring that each item is completed, the status of each item as work progresses, and the date each item is completed. The following are a few critical items that should be included in your move checklist:

·         If your firm is moving into an office tower, it is important to reserve the freight elevators at the old and new locations at the earliest possible opportunity.  After your lease is executed, make sure that the elevators are reserved in your firm’s name. Many office towers limit moves to weekends and evenings, so the sooner you have a confirmed reservation in writing, the better. Confirm with both building managers that no one else has the elevators reserved for the same day and time, or your move may be delayed for hours if another firm is scheduled ahead of you.

·         Ordering telephone lines, service, and equipment requires immediate attention. These should be ordered from your telephone operating company with sufficient time (at least four weeks) to guarantee that telephones will be operational on or prior to your move date. Installation of DSL and T-1 lines in particular have long lead times, and you want to ensure that Internet and e-mail access is in place when you move.

·         At the new location, movers generally place furniture and boxes using a number system. Assign all employees a location number, and make certain that all office/work locations are sequentially numbered on a floor plan of the new space. This will assist the movers on move day. If you make a last minute location change (e.g., move Employee 6 from Office 6 to Office 12) make sure that the furniture and boxes are re-labeled. Although it may require some extra effort on your part, this will prevent the movers from being slowed down while locating out-of-sequence numbers. This, of course, will result in a move that takes less time and costs you less money.


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