Allen & Overy (A&O) could save millions of pounds a year on rental costs if a virtual filing project currently being piloted takes off.
Speaking at a seminar on real estate needs for law firms, Rodney Barker, a former A&O director of business services, who is now a legal workplace consultant, said that A&O was aiming to reduce its current provision by 80 per cent. The virtual filing system has been tested on pilots of up to 200 people.
The seminar, which was run by architects HOK International, was based around HOK’s latest ‘Legal Workplace Benchmarking Study’.
The survey revealed that London law firms could save millions of pounds per year on seemingly innocuous changes, such as filing and secretarial ratios.
The average amount of filing per fee-earner is the equivalent of 60 workspaces. For A&O, with around 1,200 fee-earners in its London office alone, this represents a significant annual saving.
On average, firms annually pay £5,284 per work space, with the highest figures reaching £10,263 per year.
According to Barker, reducing the ratio of secretaries to fee-earners from around 2:1, to 4:1 or 5:1 could also make a significant difference. The average ratio of fee-earners to secretaries is presently 2.5:1. The survey noted that those firms achieving ratios of 3:1 or 4:1 had implem-ented comprehensive training for secretaries, including IT and management skills.
The survey also highlighted the massive gap in the rates of rent for firms in the London market. The average blended rent (the average rent across all of a firm’s London premises) is £37.9 per sq ft. However, some firms are paying as little as £18.50 per sq ft, while others are paying more than £50 per sq ft.