From Corporate to Collaborative: Redesigning Legal Spaces
Sapna Patel* Often when we think law firms, there are a few stereotypes that tend to come to mind: commonly, people in suits with briefcases perched in plain, wood panelled corporate offices.
However, as work trends change, there is also a need for work environments to adapt accordingly. In addition, a fit-out needs to reflect the firm and whom they represent, therefore ‘one suit does not fit all’.
There is also an increasing need for flexibility within the work environment calling for law firms to re-think their approach to office design. The idea of law firms being hierarchically segregated spaces is being replaced with a more focussed approach of offices being flexible and collaborative spaces.
Long gone is the idea of management being couped away in offices away from everyone else. The concept of an open plan office has gained dominancy where walls no longer separate and reinforce organisational hierarchies. Instead employees and management occupy the same space without any partitions to segregate them.
As real estate space is becoming scarcer and increasingly expensive, utilising the area that is currently occupied more efficiently, is critical.
With reduced walls, space is opened to be used more effectively such as to include more workstations or even a larger breakout area. As employees occupy a mutual space, collaborative practices are fostered creating a greater sense of being and empowerment.
The common misconstrued belief that quirky collaborative spaces are reserved for the likes of design and creative teams, is nothing but a myth.
People working together is the basis of teamwork and having spaces designed specifically for this only make sense. Whether it be boardrooms or less formal spaces, both are important for law office workspaces, as they may be used for internal meetings or client appointments.
Ensuring these spaces are flexible and accommodating is key to their effectiveness in fostering collaboration. A space for idea exchange, open and clear communication not only helps speed up processes but also improves employee morale.
Synonymous to the idea of having allocated collaborative areas is the concept of implementing activity-based spaces.
Multiple functions occur within a law firm and having areas dedicated to these activities is key, not only to increase flexibility but also to allow lawyers to be responsive and agile.
Common to most offices, phone calls can be one of the largest sources of unwanted noise. Implementing sound-proofed pods allows lawyers to take private phone calls without distracting colleagues nor having to step too far away from their desk.
These pods or booths are also cross-functional as they are popularly used as informal meeting areas and spaces for collaboration.
Multifunctional design is not only agile but also allows for more efficient use of limited office space, which has become an increasingly prominent concern.
Boardrooms that convert into spaces for team events, lunch spaces that also act as a more wholesome breakout areas are just a couple of ways that functionally flexible design can be implemented.
All companies including law firms have some form of company culture embedded within their processes, as subtle as they may be.
The atmosphere and mood that is created is important both internally within the business and from the client’s standpoint.
An increasing focus on company culture to differentiate law firms has impacted how office design is changing. Ensuring company culture is reflected in office design, by incorporating “huddle spaces” for example, has gained prevalence and is a way that company nuances are communicated.
The legal space is changing and in turn has caused a shift in the way law firms approach the design of their workspaces.
Having open-plan and flexible offices has become increasingly popular as they create collaborative environments.
Contrasted to their previous corporate counterpart, such changes are important for law firms to adapt to as they only continue to generate further benefits.
Sapna Patel is Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Gaze Commercial.