As discussed on this and other legal news outlets, law firms have been implementing various initiatives to try to convince employees to return to offices. Some law firms have offered free meals and other benefits, while other firms just forced attorneys and staff to return to offices or face adverse employment consequences. Since such explicit policies about returning to work are not popular, law firms should focus on providing benefits and other resources that make it easier for lawyers and staff to return to offices. Assuming law firms have the space and resources, shops should consider having gyms in their offices to help convince attorneys to return to work.
I admit that having a gym at a law firm office is pretty rare. In fact, I never worked at a firm that had an in-house fitness center (although I have worked at shops which had gyms nearby that employees could use for free or at a discount). However, I once interviewed at a law firm that had a gym right in the office.
Back when I was a 2L in law school, I did a number of callbacks for summer associate gigs in the New Jersey ‘burbs. I was taking a tour of one of the firms, and the office resembled the dozen or so other law firms I had visited. However, the tour guide then took me to the law firm’s gym, which was located right off the main row of offices on the bottom floor of the firm’s building.
The gym was relatively large, perhaps the size of a fitness center in a big apartment building. There were free weights, benches, and exercise machines that looked relatively new. Inside the gym, two attorneys were pumping iron, and one of the lawyers was spotting the other. Both were talking shop, but I am unsure if they were billing for the conversation or not! The tour guide said that the office had a few private bathrooms that included showers, so people could freshen up after the gym if they wished.
After seeing this gym, I expected that a lot of law firms would have fitness centers at which attorneys and staff could work out, but I never came across another law firm gym in my entire career. Law firms often have expansive offices that sometimes span several floors. These offices can include cafeterias, media rooms, and all manner of amenities. However, it seems like most of even the biggest law firms do not have gyms at their offices.
Creating a fitness center in a law firm office can have a number of benefits. Firstly, and I am not health expert, but having a fitness center can likely improve the health and lives of employees. Numerous people do not exercise enough, likely due to the fact that people do not have access to a fitness center or the time to travel to one and then work out. This can not only affect someone’s general health but their mood and productivity. However, if employees had a gym in their office, it would be easier to go to a gym, and these employees would realize all of the health and life benefits of exercise.
Having a law firm gym can also improve team cohesion at a firm. As previously mentioned, I saw a few lawyers bonding at the law firm gym I visited, and it is important to communicate with colleagues in a more casual setting to have the best collaboration. A gym can provide this benefit since employees who use the gym have the shared mission of working out and might even participate in group classes and the like, which can increase teamwork and rapport more explicitly.
Moreover, having a gym in a law firm office might nudge employees to return to offices. Many employees need to travel to a gym several times a week in order to work out, and depending on where they live and where their gym is located, this can involve a substantial amount of time. I am willing to bet that some lawyers and staff will head into the office more if offices had gyms since they can “kill two birds with one stone” by going to work and exercising. Of course, some people are not interested in exercise, but those that are might be more willing to be in an office if a fitness center is too.
Of course, there are numerous practical considerations law firms need to evaluate when deciding to open a gym in a law firm office. Gyms needs to be properly maintained, and law firms need to ensure that lawyers and staff are safe when using fitness equipment. However, for law firms with enough space and resources, having a fitness center in the office can be a great way to encourage people to come back to work and promote the health of employees.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at [email protected].