Designing the Office for the New Legal Landscape: Making a Case for Change

by | 11 July 2017

At the beginning of this series of posts, we mentioned the “fork in the road” where the legal profession stands right now, especially when it comes to decisions about law office design. We’ve also examined the two powerful forces converging on the legal profession: economic pressures and the millennial workforce.

In response to these factors, the design of a law office must create a foundation for building long-term success and profitability. This is a lesson many businesses outside the legal profession have already learned and acted upon, and successful law firms can do the same.

Because the right working environment is essential to attract the new generation of workers, retain talent and foster innovation — in addition to enabling productivity and a high caliber of work. Here are some of the key reasons why:

  • The ultimate goal of the workplace is to provide a high-performance environment that enhances employee productivity and reduces operating expenses.
  • In today’s competitive global business environment, fixed office space and inflexible work arrangements provide little or no value to most organizations.
  • Flexible workplace strategies are required to accommodate a much more mobile workforce.
  • Today’s generation of workers want adaptable office environments with high-tech features.
  • Collaborative office spaces are becoming more prevalent as team-based and project-based work is becoming the norm.

These observations come from a most unlikely source — not a management consulting firm or high-tech company, but the federal government (the General Services Administration to be exact). Which underscores the universality of agreement on the validity of these conclusions.

A NEW APPROACH TO THE WORKPLACE IS NEEDED

The new approach to the workplace involves a delicate balancing act as to how to best operate and uphold a law practice business model.

This is the crucial juncture that law firms need to navigate properly by making some tough decisions. Specifically, according to one of our Colliers colleagues on the West Coast, law firms need to figure out the following:

  • How to reduce space and overhead per attorney without literally or figuratively cramping their style
  • How to foster collaboration and teamwork while still providing sufficient private space for focused work
  • How to accommodate baby boomer senior partners while simultaneously meeting the very different needs of millennial associates
  • How to satisfy today’s more value-conscious clients who still expect first-class facilities and service
  • How — despite security challenges — to provide their attorneys with needed access to confidential case information anywhere, any time and on any device

CASE IN POINT: FRIED FRANK

Fried Frank dates back to the turn of the 20th century and currently is counsel to many of the world’s largest companies, financial institutions and investment firms. This nearly 130-year-old law firm recently commissioned Gensler to redesign their New York City office, including:

  • Two of the three reception areas were replaced with lounges where staff can eat, get together, relax and work in a non-office setting.
  • Lounges are decorated with diner-style neon signs and artwork from the firm’s sizable collection and equipped with chessboards, foosball and ping pong tables, and an ample supply of snacks.
  • Cafés are outfitted with flat-screen TVs, casual furniture and beautiful views of New York Harbor and Governor’s Island.
  • A billiard room with a custom wood pool table.
Colliers Fried Frank

 “They were looking for more interaction, more collaboration, more choice. The attorneys have their own offices, but they like the idea of not having to be in the office all the time,” said Julia Simet, principal and co-managing director of Gensler’s New York office.

Added Jonathan Mechanic, chairman of Fried Frank’s real estate department, “If my work environment is a better work environment, then [young attorneys] will be happier coming to work at Fried Frank than somewhere else. Attracting the best talent is very important to us.”

Stay tuned for the final installment in this series of posts!

Also: Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 5

As President of National Office Services, Cynthia leads Colliers’ national office platform across service lines including office leasing, representing tenants and landlords, investment sales, leasing agency and property management.