May 2015 Bar Bulletin
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May 2015 Bar Bulletin

What I Learned About Office Moves

By Karen Sutherland


After 24 years in the same location, my office moved a couple of years ago. Here are some of the things I learned as part of that process and by observing other firms that have moved.

  • You can never start planning too soon. How you set up your files, computers, phones, etc., will have an impact on your move. Asking about how movable these systems are ahead of time (such as when you set them up) will make life easier, not just for your move, but also for disaster recovery planning.
  • Unless you have a very small office, not everyone can be involved in the decision-making process if you expect to get done on time.
  • Define the team that will be involved in the decision-making process and establish clear roles and lines of communication to avoid sending mixed messages to your broker, architect, space planner, interior designer, furniture vendor, movers and future landlord.
  • Involve representative members of your staff in the space planning process to be sure their needs are taken into consideration, too.
  • Keep attorneys and staff informed of progress and next steps via Twitter, email or intranet.
  • Develop a common vocabulary among members of your team so that you can communicate clearly among yourselves and with the architect and interior designer. Pictures help a lot because not everyone means the same thing when they say they want "lots of light" or a "modern look," for example.
  • Your relationship with your broker is really important. You will be spending a lot of time with your broker as you assess your needs, visit properties and work out lease terms.
  • Get your architect and/or space planner involved early and often. They can help you figure out how much space you really need, especially since changes in technology have significantly affected how much room you are likely to devote to a library, server room, file storage, copy center, etc.
  • Ask your architect and/or space planner to do a test fit of how your firm will fit into the three or four spaces you are seriously considering. The amount of square footage you need may vary significantly from one building to another depending on the floor plan. A minor adjustment in office or reception area size, for example, could yield a significantly larger number of offices depending on the building shape, elevator core size, window depth and width, and other factors unique to each space.
  • Your architect, interior designer and/or space planner will be designing something you will have to live with for most of your waking hours for the next 10 to 25 years. Select them carefully and make sure they can work together successfully. Be open to their suggestions, but remember that anything that looks fresh and new today may look dated before your lease runs out.
  • If your new space includes smaller offices or partially open floor plans, noise can become an issue.
  • Make sure your new space will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and talk with the architect about what he or she considers to be "readily achievable" under the ADA.
  • Select and design your space for the long term, not to satisfy the tastes of one or two people who may move on long before the lease term ends.
  • If you don't understand an interior design term such as "flitch" or "reveal" or "schluter," then ask what it means.
  • Don't assume that just because you had something in your old space, the architect will automatically include it in your new space, such as extra outlets, phone jacks, intercom speakers, closets, etc. Check the details of the plans and specifications to be sure you have everything you need.
  • Determine whether your furniture and appliances are worth moving. Replacing them after you move is more expensive and less efficient.
  • Have a variety of people test the furniture for the conference rooms and reception area. The fact that the furniture fits you does not mean it will fit everyone else.
  • Don't assume that you can sell or even donate your old furniture and equipment. You may need to pay someone to haul it away.
  • The less stuff you save, the less stuff you have to move.
  • The more organized you are, the easier it will be to find things later.
  • Double your estimate for the amount of time to pack and unpack, the number of boxes and crates, and the amount of bubble wrap you think you will need.
  • Don't take on more than you can handle at one time. It may seem like a good idea to revamp your web page, marketing materials and file retention protocols while you are planning your move. But be realistic about how much time you can devote to those projects while you are selecting your space, negotiating your lease, designing new interiors, and picking out new furniture.
  • Put someone in charge of notifying various governmental agencies of your move such as the WSBA, Department of Revenue, secretary of state, L&I, and your vendors, creditors, insurers, clients, courts where you have cases pending, and opposing counsel.
  • Notify Bar Talk of your move.
  • If you have an open house, serve food and beverages that match the carpet.
  • Continue to remind people long after you've moved. Two years later, we still have people who go to our old space because they were unaware we moved or looked at something on the Internet that had our old address.

Karen Sutherland is the chair of the Employment and Labor Law Practice Group at Ogden Murphy Wallace, PLLC. This article represents her opinions only and is not a complete guide to moving your office. You should do your own research to plan your next move.


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