At home… in the office… and in between: Sills Cummis has found what she believes could be a “new normal” for her lawyers – a satellite office option
Meryl Gonchar admits it: Not having a daily commute to Newark – something that could take an hour or more on a one-way trip on a good day from her home in East Brunswick – is nice.
And Gonchar acknowledges that she and her fellow lawyers at Sills Cummis & Gross PC have learned what so many others discovered during the pandemic: You can be productive working from home.
âIt surprised me,â she said. âI learned how efficient I can be at home – mainly because I didn’t have the time to travel.â
This is not a perfect scenario, however. Gonchar said she doesn’t miss the ride, but misses the interaction.
Others feel the same. Including Max Crane, the managing partner of the company. That’s why Sills Cummis now offers a third option: a satellite office at Bell Works in Holmdel that can be usedâ¦ as needed.
Crane said the company, which is headquartered in Newark and an office in New York, was discussing other working arrangements before the pandemic hit New Jersey 15 months ago. Today, as the state emerges from the pandemic, Crane is introducing a star alignment that he believes is the best workplace model for the future.
On June 1, the company will officially open the workspace, an office of approximately 4000 square feet of which 8 to 10 Sills employees will become their main office.
The office, Crane said, will help attract and retain lawyers and clients. When members of either group walk into an office, that is. It’s part of the new normal at Sills.
âI see it evolving that way,â he said. âMaybe once a week they’ll come to Newark; once or twice a week they will visit the Bell Works office; and once or twice a week they will work from home. “
It’s the new world of work, Crane said.
âThis is the third option that I think everyone is looking for,â he said. âIt’s a way of making it easier for people to return to the workplace when no one is sure what they really want yet.
âWe’ve all been productive at home, but a lot of people say they want to get back to work, to regain the collegiality they find in the workplace. But people don’t want to drive in Newark or Manhattan every day or stay home every day.
“It gives them a way out of the house into a workspace.”
Ted Zangari, who chairs the firm’s real estate practice group and external advisory group and sits on the firm’s executive committee, where he is responsible for helping envision the long-term future of the company, said Sills was already looking for potential satellite offices in a few northern Jersey suburbs.
âThe idea is to create a crescent around the mothership that is Newark,â Zangari said. âWe don’t have a timeline, but we have that in mind for the future.â
The first step, Zangari said, is to establish the Bell Works site as a legitimate office. More, Zangari said, that something that could be mistaken for a WeWork or Regis location.
âIt can’t just be a sterile, indefinable space where you have phone lines and a whiteboard,â Zangari said. âMaybe it works in other professions, but not in the practice of law, where you need collaboration.
âWe are proud to have our name on the door. Opening a small satellite in a facility that is not yours does not achieve the goal, because you always feel as if you are not connected to your coworkers. It doesn’t have the same vibe. “
Creating the atmosphere will be the key. Zangari said this could lead to a new term: co-location.
Having a satellite office is one thing – having a satellite office where colleagues from the same team work together is another.
âIf we open a satellite office where we have a tax lawyer, a litigator and a real estate lawyer, there will be collegiality, but not necessarily collaboration,â he said. âI think you’ll see us encouraging people from the same practice groups to come to a particular office on a set day.
âI think the colocation will be just as important as the satellite office itself, because if you don’t create some sort of collaborative working environment, it’s just about giving employees a place to go to work outside of. home – and you might as well be in a nondescript office environment. “
When Crane talks about expanding the concept, he means more than just adding more satellite offices. He also wants to expand the individual satellite offices.
âI hope we will have to quickly move beyond the existing space at Bell Works,â he said. “Nothing would make me happier than to have performed so well that we had to add space.”
And it could also mean the addition of lawyers.
Sills currently has about 150 attorneys, of whom about 125 work in, or previously worked outside of, the Newark office, a 70,000 square foot location near Newark Penn Station.
Crane said he sees the new setup as an ideal way to attract new talent.
âPeople know that our firm, just like our firm, wants to work in our firm, but you would be surprised how many lawyers are approaching the finish line with us when it comes to membership, only to back down because that they don’t want to make the trip to Newark or New York, âhe said.
âAnd that was before the pandemic, before everyone realized he could work efficiently without being in an office every day. I can tell you that this has already improved our recruitment. “
It certainly changed the tone, Crane said.
âWe said to people, ‘We are planting a flag here, we are going to be here, this can be your main place of work and it will give you the opportunity to integrate yourself with the main number of lawyers in Newark. and, at the same time, be closer to home, âhe said.
Zangari said lawyers, like everyone else, are looking for a new work environment. He thinks this star-shaped approach provides it.
âIt talks about retention of talent,â he said. âWe don’t know what the new work environment will be after the pandemic. But we do know one thing for sure: we have seen the future – and the alternative to commuting is not to work from home every day of the week, it is to have something. thing in between.
“In our opinion, there is something in between, is having a dynamic satellite office, where you can have meetings, where you can collaborate with colleagues.”
How often employees will visit these offices is not the issue. You just have to have the option, Zangari said.
âPsychologically, just knowing that you now have three choices will help you,â he says. âIf people end up spending five days a week still coming to the mothership, what might happen occasionally, knowing that they chose to be there is important. We offer options. “
Gonchar is happy to have the flexibility.
As the co-chair of the company’s land use practice group, she often has meetings in the state – which meant leaving the Newark office at noon to do nightly meetings in central Jersey.
âWhen you have to be somewhere in South Monmouth County at 7am and you don’t know what you’re going to hit when you get to Parkway, you have to leave Newark before rush hour – when you do. ,” she said.
âHaving full office support and being in a place where I can get to that part of the state during rush hour without having to leave two hours early is a treat.â
Not that she’s abandoning Newark.
Gonchar plans to spend at least one day a week in Newark working with the firm’s lawyers in North Jersey. And she suspects some of the North Jersey lawyers – especially those with homes in Shore – might be spending more time at the Bell Works office during Summer Fridays.
Flexibility is the key.
Crane, in fact, said the concept was too good to ignore any longer.
âFor us it became, ‘Why don’t we do this? “, He said. âIt gives our current employees more options. It gives our current and future customers more options. This gives our recruiting and hiring efforts a larger pool to legitimately tap into.
âWe are starting small in a county, but as we attract new recruits they will take part in the management and growth of these new offices and help us build the infrastructure in a more meaningful and sustainable way. path.
âIt will be linked to quality lawyers, quality business clients and a kind of integrative vision of how we develop the firm, with its main office in Newark. It’s complicated and that simple. We have been thinking about this for a long time. Now we have to run it.