Israel's first lawyers' shared workspace set to open

Elad Netz Photo: Gal Natan

Partners & Co. in Tel Aviv's Ha'arba'ah St. will offer all the space, tools and services required by elite legal professionals, under one shared roof.

The shared workspace phenomenon has also reached Israel's lawyers. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of shared workspace developments, which began with WeWork in 2010, which was founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, as a company that specializes in creating a shared workspace environment. Subsequently, various companies were established providing shared workspaces and leased out to workers in a diverse range of sectors. Now for the first time in Israel, a workspace is being set up and designed to offer all the space, tools and services required by elite legal professionals, under one shared roof.

Behind this interesting initiative, that will operate under the Partners & Co. brand, are capital market "players", social investors and strategic consultants from the legal world including: Roni Biram, one of the founders of Excellence Investment House, Yoel Cheshin, founder and chairman of the 2B Community impact fund, and Adv. Dudi Zalmanovitsh, CEO of GLawBAL, a leading consultant to the Israeli legal sector. All these have joined together to invest about NIS 7 million in setting up Israel's first chain specializing in work areas designed for lawyers.

Although the shared workspace "market' in Israel is apparently 'flooded' with about 35 companies in Tel Aviv alone offering about 300,000 square meters of workspace, not a single one of them has to date specialized in the lawyers market.

This fact looks a little curious due to the situation in the workspace market where there are areas designed for artists, architects, designers, and of course high-tech employees. This is despite the fact that for over a decade, Israel has held the world record for the number of lawyers per capita (about 1 lawyer for every 128 Israelis according to various publications).

According to different sources in the legal sector, the reason that until today no shared workplace has been set up for lawyers lies in the profession's ethics, which prohibit a lawyer from working in a shared workplace that is not designed for lawyers and since the need for prestige and respectable visibility, as well as the use of space, is significantly different than what is needed for freelancers and high-tech people. Now, with the announcement of the establishment of the new chain, the first boutique business space will be set up designed solely for lawyers.

Sources inform "Globes" that construction of the chain's first shared workspace is currently being completed and will begin operating in October 2018 in the Hagag Group's office tower in Tel Aviv's Ha'arba'a Street. The floor in question will have 1,300 square meters in which there will be 70 closed and privet offices, leased from the Israel Local Government Economic Services Company, which possesses several floors in the tower and financed part of the cost of the building's construction. Sources also inform "Globes" that the partners are intending to set up similar projects in European cities.

One of the prominent investors in the new chain is Roni Biram who sold his holdings in the Excellence Investment House (together with his then partner Gil Deutsch) to Yitzhak Tshuva's Phoenix Insurance Company for about NIS 900 million. Biram, who is currently owner of solar energy company Sunflower, explains what persuaded him to become an active partner in the boutique workspace chain for the legal sector.

He said, "I understood that we are talking about what is the strongest trend that is changing the office leasing sector in Israel and worldwide beyond recognition. After the deep research that we conducted, we understood that the shared workspace field is undergoing a maturing process and as in any sector which is undergoing maturing, developments are naturally created and a sharpening of the stage of responding to market needs. We felt a lack of workspaces designed for lawyers which match their needs with prestige and skillful service system."

Adv. Dudi Zalmanovitsh, another of the chain's partners, who owns a company dealing with consultancy and implementation for law firms, agrees with Biram and points out that setting up a chain designed for lawyers is a consequence of two simultaneous trends. "The first is the strengthening of technologies, the competition and awareness of law firms and customers, and the changing of traditional models of fees. The second is the phenomenon of shared workspaces and their evolution in the direction of segmentation, which has now reached the world of lawyers."

Zalmanovitsh stresses that although we are talking about a new invention and that there are no small number of shared workspaces, the new chain that is being set up is committed to providing a shared workspace that is focused on the top layer of lawyers and that in his opinion the pricing, "Pricing will also be made possible for lawyers on the way up to find flexible, convenient options for their office, both as individuals and as office clusters that combine several positions and work stations"

So what will the chain offer and who are the target customers?

As well as a desirable location, the new chain will offer a business lounge, a quality bar, concierge services, sea-facing balconies, some from the private offices, reception and a complex of meeting rooms with all accessories as well as a "good-value offer" to lawyers that will allow them to manage their 'firms' in the best possible way. The package will include legal software such as Nevo, accounting advice provided by the KPMG Somekh Haikin, courier services to the courts, and Israel Land Registry, various administrative services and more, as well as services originating from member clubs (manicure, ironing shirts, yoga classes).

Management in a supportive environment

According to the initiator of the concept and the chain's CEO Adv. Elad Netz (who has a more than 40% stake in the chain) the target customers for the new offices will be the well-established boutique law firms and experienced professionals "Which will also enable the younger staff to have private work stations"."

Adv. Netz adds regarding the experienced lawyers that the chain is seeking to attract. "In many instances we are talking about experienced lawyers who have quit large or medium-sized firms and have already seen how a firm should look and are interested in enjoying all the services that a 'large firm' has so that they can offer it in their firm without compromising."

Additionally, Adv. Netz stresses that the shared workspace will also be suitable for, "retired judges, arbitrators, mediators and veteran lawyers who will find Partners & Co to be a prestigious and respected framework, in which they can manage their affairs, in a premium and supportive environment, alongside similar professionals."

With this in mind, Adv. Netz claims that the project is being built so that, 'It will meet more precisely the needs and values that are fundamental to the legal profession. In this context, Adv. Netz adds that the chain's shared workspace will be more reminiscent of the office designs of the larger law firms combined with boutique hotels, member clubs, and business lounges design and accordingly, "We have planned a workspace that draws inspiration from high-level workplaces from abroad, such as the Great Room in Singaporeand looks less colorful than the meeting rooms in high-tech companies," he explains.

Adv. Netz concludes, "One of the main principles that we found in our research was the existence in the legal sector of the 'professional clique' and 'closed club.' Therefore, the new office will offer services only to qualified lawyers and it is our intention to create a platform that will encourage professional encounters, exchanging views and ideas and promoting business cooperation."

As part of its desire to contribute to the community, Partners & Co. has initiated a new and unique support, advice and mentoring program with the Yedid NGO in which about 150 senior figures in Legal marketing, Legal PR, business strategy and retired judges and professional from Israel's legal sector will give consulting hours to lawyers who will choose to use this program, and the "payment" will be made by contributing probono hours to the community.

Among the mentors that have already taken part in the launch event for the project are retired judges such as Hila Gerstel and Shaul Manheim as well as senior partners in leading Israeli law firms including Adv. Eli Zohar, Adv. Ruby Bachar (who serves on the board of the venture and has supported it since its inception together with Adv. Netz) and others.

It will be important for the new chain to work on promoting the image of its lawyers with the public-at-large. With this in mind, they have recruited as one of its investors, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Mishael Cheshin, Yoel Cheshin, the founder and chairman of the 2B Community impact investment fund, which promotes investments in ventures with a social value. Cheshin explains that, "Regardless of a lawyer's image, that is not dependent on the work of an individual in the community, the logic that underlies the project is the combination of the social element in the business model of the venture, and the way in which synergy is created, leading a contribution to a sustainable community."

Cheshin claims that, "A community of lawyers is an asset for any company because they hold in their hands knowledge and power. In order to help share the knowledge and power, a social mechanism is needed. Together, we will create a wheel of momentum that will bring value to the periphery."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 12, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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Elad Netz Photo: Gal Natan
Elad Netz Photo: Gal Natan
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