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Objects in motion: When committees couldn’t find the perfect space, the personal touch did

August 01, 2017
By Dustin J. Seibert
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

Networking is arguably a significant aspect of moving up — or over — in the legal community. Sometimes, the benefits of those personal connections extend far beyond the personal to an entire business.

Arnstein & Lehr was on the hunt for a new space, looking to move from its office at 120 S. Riverside Plaza. The search began as many do — with a committee earmarking and touring various potential locations. But one evening, law school buddies Michael Gesas, managing partner of Arnstein’s Chicago office, and Anthony Nasharr, managing partner of Polsinelli’s Chicago office, met socially as they had done many times before.

When Nasharr informed Gesas that the firm was looking to make a move, he informed them that Polsinelli was looking to move as well. The rest is Chicago legal history: Arnstein moved to Polsinelli’s former space at 161 N. Clark St. at the beginning of April, after Polsinelli moved to a new space at 150 N. Riverside Plaza.

Arnstein takes up the 41st, 42nd and 46th floors, along with part of the 13th. The new office is actually a reduction in square footage, with just more than 67,000 square feet versus the more than 100,000 square feet at its previous location.

Arnstein’s old quarters were the classic offices in three sizes — top partners, junior partners and associates. The other feature was three floors connected by a staircase.

But that’s where the “downgrade” stops. The old South Riverside office actually had too much space for the staff of about 200. Gesas said the firm could have stayed in the old office following a consolidation of space, but there were enough incentives to relocate.

“We wanted something closer to downtown,” Gesas said. “Something newer that will get our young lawyers more excited about the neighborhood and about taking clients out. It’s a whole new neighborhood over on the west side of the river, but it’s not the same as being over here.”

“Moving gave us some new energy by being in a new space and place in town. Our attorneys can take our clients to places like Riverwalk and Block 37. I’m not taking anything away from businesses on the river, but after many years those become the same places.”

Gesas credits Polsinelli with creating an office design that Arnstein left largely intact following the move (“We changed some color schemes and some technology, but we didn’t have to do much,” he said.) Other benefits include a floor layout that allows practice groups to be near each other and a built-out, centralized lounge area, which contains several televisions, a bar and a kitchenette area.

“I’ve noticed that people don’t eat in their offices as much anymore and gather in the [lounge] area,” Gesas said. “You go down there at lunchtime, it tends to be packed.”

The most profound change to the space is the addition of 7,500 feet for the accounting department and non-billing personnel and moving servers offsite to a facility in Elk Grove Village, minus a server that connects them to the Florida offices.

“We always wanted to do that for many reasons, but mainly because best practice is to have servers in a facility that backs up everything,” Gesas said.

Gesas said the firm’s young lawyers had significant input in how the new office would come together. In turn, he had the benefit of learning more about the lawyers and what they were looking for.

“I learned that a tremendous amount of our young lawyers and support staff live downtown, in the South Loop and even in northern Indiana,” Gesas said. “Many of them were thrilled because it’s easier to get here by public transit.”

“We also learned that the action that happens in this neighborhood meant a lot to them. They get to be closer to their friends that work at other firms close by, and they can link together and network with them and still catch their train home.”

djohnseib@hotmail.com

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