So how does one design an office full of lawyers and staff? Is there Feng Shui involved—the process whereby—according to that Chinese Philosophy–you make the place beautifully suited to harmony and abundance, by allowing air and energies to flow freely and in balance? According to Mary Flood of the Houston Chronicle’s Chron (“the business blog”), it’s not necessarily about any of these factors. And apparently the size of an attorney’s personal office is no longer important.
In fact, there are parts of law firms which are getting smaller—personal offices and libraries, for instance–while other sections–conference rooms and break rooms—are being given newfound importance. (This speaks to the greater need in today’s world for group-think and group-speak—and to the crucial role that clients play in a law firm’s “presentation”.)
Ken Harry, a Houston architect who, according to Flood, has been designing law offices for thirty years, was quoted as saying that the key words today are functionality, economy and business.
When Harry first started in the design business, lawyers “didn’t talk about clients too much”. “Now,” he says, “it’s all about image for the clients, amenities for the clients. Lawyers have figured out who their bosses are — their bosses are the clients.”
And what’s the best way to please their bosses/clients? The design usually features a subtle elegance without being ostentatious, says Flood. “[D]esigners are often instructed to make the offices look successful, dignified and substantial without looking extravagant…”
What sort of styles does this conjure up? Litigation boutique Susman Godfrey concocted an avant-garde look with glass walls that change color. (The Flood post was compiled a few years ago, so they might have upgraded to something even more modern since!) Beck Redden & Secrest placed a grand staircase in the lobby. They also installed a polished black and white diamond-shaped floor, in the Art Deco style, to aptly welcome clients. (See photo.)
The conference room is becoming more of a central stopping-off point, or hub. In many firms, clients are now seen in conference rooms, as opposed to in lawyers’ offices.
Why are personal offices shrinking? “It’s a nod to rising real estate prices, less need for individual book space…” notes the blogger. And one firm—Susman Godfrey—has discussed someday having fewer offices than lawyers. Steve Susman said that these universal offices could be used by any lawyer not traveling or working from home.
They’ve decided against that for now, says Susman, but he acknowledged that “the central office is becoming less essential. Plunging weekend and after-hours air-conditioning bills tell him that,” says Flood.
Many firms have also set aside one floor as the all-purpose “public space” and, in a nod to clients with busy schedules, designers have been asked to create a spare office for clients to work during breaks. And what about the public restroom? Surely designers aren’t being asked to make that any less, well, substantial, for clients, are they?
Actually, it’s the exact opposite. It may compare to the ones at four-star hotels, we are told. To read more, go to:
To see more photos, go to: http://blog.chron.com/legaltrade/2007/05/law-firm-digs-take-three-updated/
Photo courtesy of chron.com