Don't Count On Your Real Estate Broker When you Need a Sublease of Your Law Office Space

Does your law firm have various empty offices, either due to downsizing or lease planning with the expectation of "growth" which has not yet occurred? With surplus space and time remaining on the lease, your law firm has several options. Your office manager can contact a real estate broker, who you will hope to find a sublet which will help defer your costs. The problem is: (i) brokers do not like sublease assignments because the sublease market is twice as competitive as the new space market; (ii) subleases require up to twice the work as a normal assignment; (iii) the fee from subleases averages only 25% of the normal sub-assignment; and (iv) brokers are undoubtedly concerned about the chance of subtenants defaulting on the sublease. With all this in mind, law firm administrators and managing partners currently have to use their valuable time acquiring a subtenant.

Also, sublease assignments generally require the written consent of the landlord. With very few avenues for obtaining a subtenant, hard costs for print advertising, excess expense and the opportunity cost typically deter law firm with surplus space from actually finding a tenant to sublet. Despite the lack of enthusiasm real estate brokers will have for helping you with a sublease, your landlord will want you to use their broker rather than an outside broker. This is a major impediment and will require you to work with someone who really has the landlord's interest at heart. The new solution is an on-line matching service for law firms seeking to sublease surplus space and lawyers hunting down a turn-key office for their law practice. Simply go to

Your problem will be solved when you post a short description of your surplus office space, identifying various amenities including copying, internet, research tools, conference room, and whether the office is furnished or not. Add a photo and you are done. This cost is minimal. Potential subtenants exist--lawyers who are seeking to find empty law space as a result of a move, layoffs from law firms where they were employed, or simply part-time lawyers who are moving back into a full-time law practice.

Atlanta Office Space Glut Mirrors Situation Nationwide and Provides Opportunity for Attorneys

As we mentioned in my previous post, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction Looking for a New Law Office in Atlanta", unused law offices exist. Commercial vacancy rates in Atlanta increased by almost 2 percent between the end of 2009 and 2010. Cushman & Wakefield reported this as the highest overall vacancy rate in Atlanta (including direct and sublease space) since 2004. 

Despite this, sublease vacancies in Atlanta did decrease steadily during 2010 to just below 2.7 million square feet. As one of the country's most vibrant cities, Atlanta is usually ahead of national economic improvement trends, but overbuilding in the commercial building sector before the economic downturn in 2008 left the market with an overabundance of commercial space. Other cities like Phoenix and New York are also experiencing this issue due to overbuilding, while key Midwest markets such as Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit are suffering due to slow redeployment of the workforce. In most markets, the continuation of downsizing efforts combined with consolidation of businesses in 2010 has made the recovery difficult. While the lagging economic indicators may dishearten landlords and commercial developers, conditions are ripe for bargain hunters or any individual looking for a place to hang a shingle for their business. Many commercial landlords are offering leasing at discounted rates to lure prospective clients, while some high-end developments are providing luxury amenities for little or no cost in an effort to boost occupancy rates.

Perhaps most intriguing is that subleasing opportunities abound as businesses seek to rent out unused office space that is damaging to profits. Many law firms fall within this category. These firms cut back on staff and currently have open offices that can be filled with professionally compatible lawyers in need of an executive environment in which to operate. Especially for law firms, the right match can benefit both parties well beyond the landlord/tenant arrangement. 

In 2010, Elaine M. Russell created, a service that matches lawyers seeking to sublet space with unoccupied office space at compatible law firms around the country. Elaine M. Russell is a corporate and business attorney representing clients throughout Georgia. Elaine's office is located in the Buckhead section of Atlanta. Resources: C&W: Atlanta's Office Market Shows Improvement in 2010, Posted January 6, 2011, City Biz Real Estate