Law firm office design is more than tasteful artwork, burnished panels and glazed partitions. A good design will work in variable ways to also increase collaboration among lawyers and – as a pleasant addendum – increased profits, too.
Take the example of a law firm in Grand Rapids, Rhoades McKee, who moved into a new building with what they call a “fresh and modern” space.
Like all lawyers they are moving increasingly into a more tech-driven working style, with lawyers spending more time on their computers and less time with one another.
” When I started, for your first two or three years, every lawyer pretty much started in the library,” explained Paul McCarthy, executive committee president, Rhoades McKee. “There were other lawyers in the library. They might be a year ahead, or three years ahead or a few years behind you. There was a lot of learning that went on in that environment.
“Once everything became electronic and available at your fingertips on your computer screen, the library wasn’t really occupied by anyone. Lawyers were just in their offices. In that process, you lose the ability to learn and enhance your own arguments based on the ideas of those other people when you were able to spitball across the library table.”
Sensing a desire for collaborative environments that could replace the outdated library space, Rhoades McKee’s new office includes eight flex workspaces.
“Those spaces are designed to drive lawyers out of their offices,” he said. “Those flex areas have been very beneficial.”
McCarthy said working in the flex spaces also adds a level of fun that just doesn’t exist when everyone is tucked away in closed-off offices.
“It just makes the practice of law more enjoyable, because it’s like anything else — it’s more fun when you are able to participate as part of a team than on your own,” he said. “We really want people working together, both because it’s more enjoyable and because the client outcome is enhanced.”
McCarthy said the “build it and they will come” theory has come to fruition, with the flex spaces seeing regular use.
In addition to continuing to settle into its new space in Grand Rapids, Rhoades McKee is also settling into its new office in Holland.
On Jan. 1, Rhoades McKee opened its Holland location.
The Holland office is the former home of The Rhoades Law Office, which had been operated since 1993 by Peter Rhoades, son of Rhoades McKee founding partner Dale Rhoades. Peter Rhoades is now a shareholder in Rhoades McKee.