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Ice Miller, Bingham firms reduce downtown office space

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A couple of Indianapolis’ largest law firms are giving up space in two downtown office towers, exemplifying how the legal profession is shifting the way in which it conducts business.

Ice Miller LLP and Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP have resigned long-term leases to retain their large downtown presences. But Ice Miller gave up two of its nine floors at OneAmerica Tower, on the northwest corner of Illinois and Ohio streets. Bingham gave up one of its six floors at Market Tower, 10 W. Market St.

Ice Miller, the city’s third-largest firm based on number of attorneys, also moved some back-office operations across Illinois Street to Capital Center to further reduce expenses and provide roomier working conditions.

Capital Center’s rent $20.50 per square foot is cheaper than OneAmerica Tower’s $24.50, saving Ice Miller a hefty six-figure sum per year, said Phil Bayt, one of the managing partners.

Ice Miller will retain 130,000 square feet at OneAmerica Tower; Bingham will keep 78,000 square feet at Market Tower.

“We’ve been on a quest to make sure that we examine every dollar of cost that we incur to understand how we can deliver our services more cheaply,” Bayt said.

The economic downturn forced scores of law firms to become more flexible with billing rates to retain clients and remain competitive. Reducing space is an obvious way to cut costs, as rent is among firms' largest expenses.

For Ice Miller and Bingham, whose long-term leases were set to expire, this was their first opportunity since the downturn to explore the cost savings.

“Just because you’re a senior partner who’s been around 30 years, you probably don’t need that office if you’re only coming in once a week,” said Julie Armstrong, executive director of the Indianapolis Bar Association.

Another huge relic: the law library. Ice Miller once had the largest in the state outside the law schools, Bayt said. Most tomes and documents have been converted to electronic volumes, making the rows of binders and shelves nearly obsolete.

“[Reducing space] is definitely a trend simply because technology has enhanced our ability to do more with less,” said Mary Solada, Bingham’s managing partner. "We're essentially right-sizing. We don't need as much library space."

Bingham Greenebaum Doll, the city’s fifth-largest firm, formed in late 2011 from the merger of Bingham McHale LLP with Louisville-based Greenebaum Doll & McDonald. Bingham’s decision to reduce its space would have occurred regardless of the marriage, she said.

Both Ice Miller and Bingham plan to remodel their existing space to make it even more efficient.

Ice Miller's Bayt said his firm will invest $2 million in system-wide technology upgrades to improve virtual office capabilities.  

Ice Miller is eliminating its lunch room, for instance, and converting it to multi-purpose space that will serve as a coffee shop during the day and a reception area in the evening.

“There are simply more lawyers than there is legal business nationwide,” Bayt said. “You’ve got to differentiate yourself on quality and efficiency. If you don’t, you can’t compete for legal business.”

Several local law firms have merged or folded in recent years as the legal market becomes more competitive. The latest, Stewart & Irwin, closed late last month.

Founded in 1922, the general practice firm had 22 lawyers as of April and ranked as the city’s 21st-largest firm, according to IBJ research.

Its demise has left a one-floor vacancy within Two Market Square at 251 E. Ohio St.
 

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  1. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

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