Space and place key tools in battle for legal talent in Australia

Colliers International releases APAC Law Firm Trends and Outlook Report 2018

Office space and location are key tools in staff attraction and retention strategies for law firms across the country, as ongoing industry consolidation intensifies the battle for legal talent.

Colliers International’s APAC Law Firms Trends and Outlook Repot 2018, produced in collaboration with Page Group, has found legal talent are highly conscious of factors beyond pay and promotion, with workplace culture and office space important considerations in identifying law firms of choice.

“The physical workplace plays an important role in fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation which attracts and retains talent. We’re seeing law firms taking an increased interest in office selection and design, not only to improve efficiencies given increased competion and cost pressures but to promote the firm’s culture. This is particularly important for companies experiencing merger and acquisition activity,” Simon Crouch, Colliers International Head of Tenant Advisory, Occupier Services, said.

Maria Curtis, a Legal Recruitment specialist at Michael Page, explained that the best candidates are seeking out firms which offer an open-plan, engaging and collaborative workspace, with remote access and flexible working arrangements.

“For the current generation of legal talent, the physical space is an important consideration in deciding which law firms they want to work for.  Candidates are seeking modern and open-plan office environments with interesting design features, innovative technology and world-class amenities,” Ms. Curtis said.

Creating an engaging office space also presents law firms across Australia and the APAC region with a unique opportunity to adopt emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to drive innovation and maximise space efficiencies.  

Workplace innovation in the legal sector is also being driven by increased competition due to merger activity and cost pressures.  With real estate typically accounting for 7-13% of overheads for firms in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, law firms are increasingly looking to drive greater productivity through changes to their office model and the use of flexible workspace configurations.  Buildings that provide significant “Third Spaces” such as conference rooms, meeting facilities and project spaces can allow a law firm to reduce their footprint and provide flexibility across the lease term. 

In addition to workspace, office location also remains a central component of legal talent attraction and retention strategies, with law firms seeking premises and addresses which reflect the prestige associated with respective the firm’s image.  

“Law firms are continuing to favour premium office locations in core CBD precincts, particularly in Brisbane where 98 per cent of law firms are based in the core CBD precinct.  While this is also the case for the vast majority of law firms in Sydney and Melbourne, we are starting to see some law firm offices move to other prestigious CBD locations, such as Barangaroo in Sydney,” Mr. Crouch said.

As mergers and acquisitions remain prevalent in the legal sector, the quality of office environment and premium office location will continue to be core components of law firms’ attraction and retentions strategies in the competition for talent.

“We’ve seen a clear trend of major law firms committing to both new developments and buildings that have undergone significant regeneration, this has been particularly relevant in Melbourne CBD over the past 12-18 months,” said Andrew Beasley, National Director of Office Leasing at Colliers International.

“Firms are seeking buildings that talk to their needs through floor plate efficiencies and buildings that focus on the occupant by offering amenities like wellness, concierge services and the like. The battle for talent remains a key issue for the majority of firms and those that choose a new workplace feel they will generally be better placed to attract new talent,” said Mr Beasley.

To download a copy of the full Law Firm Trends and Outlook Report 2018, click here.

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