Reconfiguring your office

Smarter solutions

Legal chambers, barristers’ rooms, mahogany desks and green-shaded lamps – all traditional hallmarks of a legal practice, but, along with many other office-based businesses, these old-fashioned terns and fixtures are fast being replaced by new ways of working.

A recent article on the Minnesota State Bar Association website looked at some of the current trends in legal office spaces and deduced that as with most office-centric businesses, occupancy costs and working environment are under the spotlight.

Law firms are taking a lead from other professionals and corporates and looking for ways to reconfigure their space to get the best cost-efficiencies and to provide contemporary working conditions.

Cushman & Wakefield’s annual National Legal Sector Benchmark Survey tracks trends emerging across the United States and found that the legal sector is broadly reducing its office footprint by downsizing its square-foot-per-attorney ratios, with 46 percent of firms surveyed aiming to reduce their occupancy area when their existing leases expired.

The legal sector globally appears to be embracing the “we space” rather than the “me space” concept with a turn away from individual office spaces and the switch to open plan environments with breakout areas.

Changes in technology and a paperless workplace goal are eroding the need for bulky filing and storage space, and traditional law library areas.

The survey suggests that by 2025, over 50 percent of the lawyers in the United States will be millennials. Just as other businesses are seeking to accommodate the work/life balance demands of that generation in particular, law firms are doing the same with hot-desking, collaborative spaces and remote working options all finding a place.

In Auckland, crown solicitors Meredith Connell has embraced the new style of workplace. The firm recently consolidated its entire legal team onto a spacious single floor plate in a high-tech new building having previously been spread across five floors in a traditional office tower.

It also broke with tradition by relocating away from the established Auckland CBD to the emerging Victoria Quarter which is home to Oracle and Microsoft, digital media company NZME, software developer Clearpoint, and telco’, Spark.

According to an article on the Employment Today website profiling Meredith Connell’s new offices, gone are the partitioned individual offices and the mahogany desks.

Regardless of professional standing, everyone rubs shoulders in an open space softened by plants and flooded with natural light. There are a number of different styles of working space with use dictated by the nature of the work being carried out.

The dedicated library area bears no resemblance to the cloistered realms of the past, however the high acoustic-rated space comes into its own when ultra-concentration time is required by staff.

The firm says there have been some great outcomes from the new work environment, namely:

• An increase in revenue

• It has been easier to recruit

• There is a greater feeling of belonging

• People are proud of their work space.

It could be said that if law firms, which are known to hold onto tradition, can transition to new inclusive activity-based, flexible work spaces, then the open-plan working model has really gained traction in the office world.


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