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Mayor Gray to Headline Bisnow Summit

Washington DC Legal DC

Law firms now make up almost 25% of DC's downtown tenants, according to Savills Studley. That's why we're thrilled to bring together leaders from law firms and real estate to discuss Real Estate Strategies for Associations and Law Firms at the Mayflower on August 27, with keynote Mayor Vince Gray. (Sign up!)

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Along with Mayor Gray, another speaker is Nixon Peabody DC managing partner Jeff Lesk. His firm is one of at least 14 that recently moved or is planning to move its DC office. Nixon Peabody will relo in spring 2015 from 401 Ninth St in Penn Quarter to 799 Ninth St, making a dramatic 30% reduction in space. We snapped Jeff in the new lobby, second from right, with building owner Brookfield SVP David Bevirt, Nixon Peabody chief innovation officer Herb Stevens, office administrator Richard Gibson, IT team Eric Davila and Scott Bolan, and Perkins+Will lead architect Ken Wilson.

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Jeff and Ken gave us a sneak preview of the new office's current working floor plans. The firm will take floors 4 through 6 and 65k sq ft. (The building used to house Treasury offices and is about 72% leased; Norton Rose has also signed on for three floors.) Nixon Peabody looked at 28 buildings before landing on 799 Ninth. There's no longer one area where law firms "have to be," they found, and options are growing with developments at Mass Ave, CityCenter (across the street), Southeast, and New York Ave.

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Ken showed us around with software that displays a 3D rendering of one option for the finished space. "Fall in love with your program before falling in love with the building," Jeff tells us. Programming encompasses space requirements (eg, square footage per lawyer, number of secretarial stations, filing and library space, and office size—the firm is considering going one size for partners and associates) overlayed with flexibility, sustainability,  and economic factors.

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On the terrace, Nixon Peabody chief innovation officer Herb Stevens, one of the first in the country to hold that role at a law firm, points out that DC is ideal for solar panels: the roofline is almost flat. Nixon Peabody did something unusual and negotiated into its lease differentiated energy costs, so it will pay for its own separately. That means cost-saving measures, like solar panels and LED lights, will be directly reflected in its bills. 

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To test out Herb's solar panel hypothesis, we made the climb up to the uppermost part of the roof, 10 stories up. (After snapping this picture of Jeff, your intrepid reporter braved the ladder as well.)

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Jeff, Ken, and Herb look over DC. This gravel space could one day be filled with solar panels powering Nixon Peabody. Herb has larger ambitions, as well. Putting panels on multiple buildings in the area or around DC could create economies of scale and a greater environmental impact. Ken helped develop the original LEED standards and is working with NP to integrate sustainability from the start of the design process. 

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DC law offices seem to be becoming more egalitarian, efficient, and eco-friendly. (We'll call it the Three Es.) On the egalitarian front, Nixon Peabody chose to take what could be a prime corner office and turn it into an open-plan cafe. (It's the only part of the office that's growing over the move.) That way, all lawyers and staff will get to enjoy this view. This is just one firm's approach. To hear from others about developments in law firm real estate, join us at Bisnow's second annual Real Estate Strategies for Associations and Law Firms on Aug. 27.