3 trends in law firm design


The way we work continues to change every day and as a result office design and workplace organization have followed suit. It is important to keep in mind that law design is a unique subset of office design and will last as long as lawyers are granted private offices.

Like all other workplaces, law firms – regionally, nationally or globally – have adapted to recent trends.

Anne Kniffen

These changes have continued over the past 15 years, but as we continue to navigate the pandemic, designers need to rethink the design of law firms and come up with innovative design solutions rather than relying on analytics. comparative studies as mentality and style of work in law firms. has and continues to evolve.

Many of the trends we’re seeing in law firm design, like hybrid work, moving to one-size-fits-all offices, and adding more collaboration spaces, were already growing in popularity, but have accelerated. due to the pandemic. Businesses were reluctant to adopt these measures before the pandemic, but are now eager to adapt.

Hybrid operation

With hybrid work becoming more and more common, lawyers and their guests will constantly be entering and leaving the office at different times. Designers recommend hybrid work environments rather than just a conventional desktop.

One solution is to set up a group of bookable cockpit desks. A cockpit desk is half the size of a single desk and provides an efficient working environment for one person. These desks cannot accommodate guest seating and offer minimal storage space, but provide an ideal, quiet setting for lawyers to do their work with their heads down. Small meeting rooms and locker-type storage should be provided near a bank of cockpit offices.

When it comes to hybrid work, technology is vital. As designers and architects, we need to provide lawyers with the necessary technological capabilities within the office. This includes the appropriate screens, video cameras and microphones to allow employees to be seen and heard during the video conference. In addition, room planning systems should be made available to employees for conference rooms and cockpits.

This program is essential for managing space when lawyers will be working a hybrid schedule. They give employees the ability to schedule a room from their phone, so they know exactly where they will be working for the day when they walk into the office. Another tool that helps with the form and function of the firm is the Custom Law Firm Design Predictive Planning Tool, created by Perkins & Will.

This tool helps law firms determine the exact ratios of time employees will be in the office each day. This tool not only helps plan office and conference spaces, but provides designers with additional data and information when it comes to creating the spaces needed for lawyers.

Rendered by Perkins & Will from Nixon Peabody, Washington, DC

Rendered by Perkins & Will from Nixon Peabody, Washington, DC

Make the office an attractive destination

After months of lawyers working from the comfort of their own homes, it’s up to designers to create spaces that give employees a reason to come back to the office. Many senior lawyers aspire to be with their teams and see people’s faces, while younger lawyers lack aspects of mentoring that cannot happen through remote interaction.

One of the ways we help bring people back to the office is by creating a less formal workplace. We’re adding things that aren’t so typical in a law firm, like lounge chairs and high tables. These lounge spaces are accompanied by collaborative and common spaces where people can meet with laptops, work in groups and have conversations.

These types of spaces cater specifically to the needs of young lawyers, as they are more inclined to take their laptops and work elsewhere for part of the day. Designing flexible and collaborative space zones where furniture is approached with a kit of parts allows some user control over the configuration of the furniture in offices and workstations and allows for different table or storage configurations in team rooms.

This change in informality will also help the law to retain and attract new employees. In Texas, we are not seeing a change in the abandonment of private offices. Instead, more and more emphasis is placed on ergonomics and alternative work settings. Since privacy is always appreciated when it comes to focusing on head-down work, lawyers seek to see a flexible space more attractive than their home office.

This includes multiple monitors that can be viewed by clients while in the office, sit-stand desks, and flexible furniture. Lawyers want to have some control over the organization of their office.

Creating an attractive office is vital, especially for the Texas area, due to the significant presence of global and national law firms in town who recruit groups of lawyers from local law firms. A large percentage of the revenue generated in Texas now goes to global companies, which has resulted in a shift in lateral hiring and a competitive hiring process.

Rendered by Perkins & Will from Vinson Elkins office

Rendered by Perkins & Will from Vinson Elkins office

Changes in traffic patterns within the office

Finally, the general layout of the offices is changing. Today, some firms have shifted to a more team-oriented approach in practice areas, where paralegals are assigned only to partners rather than partners and associates.

Other firms have decided to move all paralegals to one floor where they can sit together as a team and leave a vacancy in the attorneys work area where secretaries can be stationed when needed. In public spaces, a big trend is to expand the break room area and place it next to the main customer center.

This gives law firms a larger and different footprint for functions and allows these spaces to be easily moved to serve as a waiting area or entertainment space for guests.

Anne Kniffen is Director of Corporate Interiors at Perkins & Will.

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