Clients often ask why the Firm decided to relocate almost five years ago to a WeWork building, but once a client walks into the Firm’s office at 349 Fifth Avenue in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, which is right across from the Empire State Building, the question is answered. “Your office is so cool!” is a typical response from clients, when they come in and see the recreational spaces and the fully-equipped conference rooms, where all you have to do is plug ‘n play – hooking up a computer to the large screen for Power-Point and video presentations.
When the Firm was considering its move from 80 Broad Street in Downtown Manhattan five years ago, Emily Campbell, the Firm’s Managing Member, met the Founder of WeWork, Adam Newman, when touring WeWork’s initial Downtown location. At the time, the Firm was not considering a move to Midtown, but Mr. Newman made a very convincing argument for joining the WeWork community. Notably, the Midtown location has a very professional design and is conveniently located to many subways, making it extremely convenient for clients. In 2011, WeWork was just completing the building at 349 Fifth Avenue, which was only the second building WeWork had developed; the Firm became the first tenant on the third floor at 349 Fifth Avenue and has been a tenant ever since.
“WeWork is a very exciting environment,” Ms. Campbell shared, “It is energizing to be around people who are building businesses and working just as hard as you are, but without pretense or stuffiness!”
Although WeWork does have, in some of its buildings, true co-working spaces, where there are large, shared spaces, there are individual office spaces in the WeWork community – ranging in sizes as small as a single office to multi-person offices for a single company to gather its team. The Firm occupies private office space. Confidentiality is maintained by having individual space, rather than sharing space with others, but the Firm still benefits from the all-glass design, giving the space a very friendly, open feeling. “The beauty of this system is that the Firm can take additional space only as needed and not carry large overhead,” Ms. Campbell said. “This allows the Firm to manage its operational costs and keep its billing rates affordable for smaller and growing companies.”
“The community feel is wonderful,” Ms. Campbell also said. “WeWork’s Founder is Israeli, and I would tell you that the WeWork team has built the equivalent of a ‘kibbutz for entrepreneurs,’ where it really feels like a cooperative environment, not simply a place to have an office. You have to buy into the whole concept and mindset, but once you do, it is an office experience like no other.”
The Firm has never taken space in a traditional law-office collective in the almost 15 years since the Firm’s founding, choosing instead to locate in buildings primarily with entrepreneurs and other types of service providers. That was a deliberate decision by the Firm’s Founder, Ms. Campbell. “Having had direct space when I founded the Firm and going from there to the WeWork community, where, among other things, someone else has to worry when the internet and copy machines stop functioning, I can say, without hesitation, that WeWork is hands-down the best office environment I have ever been in since founding the Firm in 2002.”
While it is true that WeWork agreements are month-to-month and a company locating at WeWork does not have to be locked in for a long time, if it’s working, it’s an ideal place to be – at least for the Firm, given its needs for a high-tech infrastructure that would be difficult to duplicate for a small firm, without investing in a ton of additional equipment, whether leased or purchased, and a separate technology contract or multiple contracts to service all that technology.
“Beyond that, WeWork is aesthetically pleasing, with an up-beat, modern design, which is appealing to many of our start-up and high-tech clients or established companies that have a younger generation at the reigns. And it has an energy about it,” Ms. Campbell said.
There are start-ups in WeWork, as well as established businesses like the Firm, and there are foreign companies with satellite offices that have located in WeWork buildings. WeWork attracts all sorts of people – all sorts of industries. And recently, WeWork raised approximately $450 million to launch in China. About that time, Mr. Newman made the cover of The Real Deal, a well-known real estate magazine, demonstrating WeWork’s strong foothold in the entrepreneurship community.
With a multi-billion dollar valuation now, WeWork has certainly seen some changes in the way it handles its challenges, often competing with itself with multiple locations in cities like New York. But one thing never changes – the way companies like the Firm are treated by WeWork’s managers and staff. “WeWork is all about hospitality,” said Ms. Campbell. “That translates into not only how I am treated and how my team is treated, but how my clients are greeted when they first arrive at the reception area. The Firm hopes to remain here for the foreseeable future. It’s a happy place, and I’m very happy to be here.”