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Law Firm Leasing Drops, But At Least Lawyers Are Actually Going To The Office


Law firm leasing is on the downturn and was “relatively tepid” in Q1, according to a Savills U.S. Law Firm Activity Report, as reported by Reuters

There was 1.1M SF of law firm leases nationwide in Q1 2022, down from 1.5M SF in each of the last two quarters and putting volumes more in line with the dregs of the pandemic, Savills found. The five-year leasing average for Q1 is 1.4M SF. 

Of note, relocations for law firms are on the rise: 66% of all leases in Q1 were relocations. The flight-to-quality trend permeating the general office leasing environment has played a role as law firms were enticed by soft market conditions to find greener pastures and higher-end office spaces.

There was no lease signed over 100K SF in the quarter, a first since the onset of the pandemic but something Savills said may become more common as the average square foot per attorney ratio continues to shrink. The largest lease was in Washington, D.C., a renewal from Foley & Lardner LLP for 95K SF. Savills said the firm initially took more than double that much space when it inked a deal in that building nearly 20 years ago.

The biggest demand for office space was on the West Coast, with Los Angeles seeing 26% of the country’s law firm leasing activity, with seven transactions in the first quarter. This is a stark contrast to the past two years, where Los Angeles lagged in fourth place in terms of leasing volume behind New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Savills’ data looked at leases larger than 20K SF. 

As office-using businesses struggle to find a balance between bringing employees back to the office against catering to the demand for remote work, the law firm office segment looks to be doing well. The average occupancy in terms of actual employee office usage is up significantly for law firms, especially compared to other industries, according to Kastle Systems data cited in the report.

Law firms saw 71% average office usage in Q1, compared to an average of 43% for all industries. This is a massive increase compared to the segment’s 37% average occupancy in Q1 2021. The average occupancy for all industries for that quarter was 24%.