The Management Series

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Jan 2018

A Unique Way to Expand

A Houston law firm is keeping top talent and landing Silicon Valley clients by flying top attorneys to California by corporate jet.

Just how high is the cost of real estate in Silicon Valley and environs? Daunting enough that the prestigious Houston intellectual property law firm Patterson and Sheridan decided it was cheaper and more efficient to buy a corporate jet and shuttle top attorneys to the region once a month to meet with top-dollar clients in the region rather than open a local office.

“Even with the $3 million cost of the jet and the $2,500 an hour it costs to operate it, Patterson and Sheridan says the firm is still able to offer companies and inventors lower costs because most of the patent work is done in Houston, where commercial real estate is 43 percent cheaper, salaries 52 percent lower and competition for technical talent far less fierce,” reports the Houston Chronicle.

Much of the actual cost of operating the jet, which runs roughly $1,900 per passenger round trip, is offset in other ways as well.

It is difficult to impossible to work with other attorneys on commercial flights because of privacy concerns, so travel time is generally lost time for the firm. But on the private jet all of the entire three- to four-hour trip is used for work—and thus are billable hours for each lawyer aboard.

“Apply a $250 per hour average hourly billing rate to the flight and wait times of commercial travel, and it pretty much covers the cost of the trip,” the newspaper said.

The unusual expansion efforts helped the firm land some major high-tech clients, including Western Digital and financial software firm Intuit.

The idea appeals to the traveling lawyers, too, and is working as a recruiting and retention tool.

“The firm has made the jet a selling point to recruit young lawyers, promoting the chance to work with top tech companies but live in a city far more affordable than Palo Alto, where the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $3,800 and median home price is $2.6 million,” the Chronicle said.

A six-year associate whose husband works at a Houston oil firm told the newspaper the trip allows them to enjoy a lower cost of living and still enjoy residing in a city “with good career prospects.”

While Patterson and Sheridan rethought the concept of business expansion as part of its retention efforts, other companies are reinventing the concept of the workspace to keep talent and improve engagement and productivity.

CBRE, a global real estate services firm, has transformed the long-used “cube farm” into a more free-form and technologically connected space that it believes is making employees happier and, in turn, is improving customer service and the company’s bottom line.

In an article for AZBigMedia called “Workplace Trends to Embrace for 2018,” CBRE’s managing director in Phoenix, Craig Henig, outlined how the company has revolutionized the workplace in 50 of its offices.

“Leave assigned seating for the classroom,” Henig suggests. Rather, create numerous “address-free” environments for employees to work in depending on their needs for the task involved. That could be a private office, an employee’s home or hotel room, a conference room or lounges for reading, casual discussions and brainstorming sessions.

“Unassigned seating can inspire spontaneous collaboration,” he says.

Updated technology plays a crucial role, of course, because it allows all this easy movement through shared cloud storage, calendars and messaging systems. That technology is also allowing CBRE’s offices to go nearly paperless.

As part of an effort to promote wellness, there also are various types of workstations employees can move in and out of during the day, including standing desks and desks with treadmills.

Stations containing healthy snacks, drinks and water are scattered around the office. “Other wellness features include interconnected floors to encourage the use of stairs, abundant natural light and health-conscious meal options,” Henig adds.

“Our global Workplace360 initiative…has revolutionized how the company utilizes space,” he says. “Employees are reporting favorable feedback, with 93 percent of employees reporting that they believe Workplace360 reflects a reinvestment in employees, processes and technology.”

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