Lowenstein bets on NYC's in-person future with expanded office lease

A view of the New York City skyline of Manhattan and the Hudson River during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey
A view of the New York City skyline of Manhattan and the Hudson River during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey, U.S. April 18, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
  • Firm's new office will grow to 125,000 square feet
  • Law firms are rethinking office space in light of pandemic

(Reuters) - As the U.S. legal industry plots a mass return to in-person work and considers a less office-bound future, at least one law firm said it is doubling down on its flagship office in Manhattan.

Lowenstein Sandler has announced it is expanding its New York City office at 1251 Avenue of the Americas to 125,000 square feet, as well as renovating its current space starting the first quarter of 2022.

The new space amounts to an additional half floor of room, said Gary Wingens, Lowenstein's chair and managing partner, and it will adopt a single-size office layout to include collaborative workspaces. Lowenstein is also adding a "a new restaurant-style eating space, as well as expanded fitness, health and wellness facilities," the firm said.

"It’s a much larger investment than just adding another 25,000 square feet in New York," Wingens said. "New York remains the most important legal market in the U.S., and the U.S. remains the most important legal market in the world."

Once complete, Lowenstein's expanded and renovated office will be able to house more than 200 lawyers, Wingens said. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic's outbreak last year, the firm had around 150 lawyers based in New York, he said.

The firm's expansion in New York City comes as some law firms have begun to rethink their office space needs after finding success working from home. At least two law firms, Jenner & Block and Perkins Coie, signed leases for smaller office space in major markets earlier this year.

High-ranking partners at firms such as Sanford Heisler Sharp and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati have expressed doubt about going back to full-time office work. Wingens agreed, saying it is "highly unlikely we’re going back to the style of work and frequency of in-office work we had before the pandemic."

Although Lowenstein has indefinitely delayed its return-to-office plans after canceling reopening dates set for Sept. 6 and Oct. 4, Wingens said he has been encouraging people to come into the office if they're comfortable. Lowenstein has a vaccine mandate in place.

"We’ve learned we can be relentlessly efficient, but there are clearly losses in collaboration, relationship building, firm culture that you can’t replicate in an all-virtual law firm," Wingens said.

Lowenstein said in its announcement that it believes the new space will serve both as a lure to prospective hires and as a model for the legal industry for promoting health and wellbeing.

"The war for talent in law is accelerating and will only get more challenging as attorneys and the next generation of lawyers weigh their options about where and how they want to work," Joseph Palermo, the firm's chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Read more:

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.