May 01, 2012
Walk into a law firm today in New York, Chicago or San Francisco and you may be surprised. Long the bastion of traditional workplace design, many legal offices have come to embrace design trends more commonly seen in ad agencies, design firms or other creative businesses. Technological innovation, competition, the downturn in the economy and shifts in work style have all contributed to this sea change in the design of law offices.
Law firms compete to hire and retain the best and brightest, especially in our challenging economic climate. The most successful firms have learned to leverage the design of their offices to project an image of sophistication and modernity to both clients and recruits. Style and design help define and differentiate a practice, and establish a consistent brand and culture across multiple offices. While the best design was historically reserved for partner offices and areas where clients met, it now often extends to all aspects of the work place.
The most common complaints voiced by associates, as found in a recent American Lawyer survey, are the lack of transparency and poor communication. In response, innovative law firms such as Torys in New York City are adopting glass-fronted offices and meeting rooms to promote transparency. To ensure confidentiality and prevent staff disruption, senior partners are holding fewer client meetings in their private offices, driving demand for more conference rooms and flexible meeting spaces in the office. Additionally, senior partners often enjoyed their own personal conference rooms, often adjacent to their offices—now even small conference rooms are shared by two or more partners, or more often by attorneys who are in that general area.