Inspire and improve corporate culture

As companies across the country continue to configure and reconfigure their return-to-work plans, some law firms are already a step ahead, having implemented phased design solutions long before the pandemic to facilitate cultural shifts. significant in their organizations. A well-designed office has the ability to truly change the game, and a successful redesign starts with just one question.

“Why are we going to the office?” »

Once companies can answer this question, often with the help of in-depth workplace study and an experienced design firm, the resulting office can be an instrument for larger goals such as equity, brand identity, well-being and flexibility. The impact of such a space is significant – boosted productivity, successful recruitment and maximized job satisfaction – at a time when many companies are wondering how to encourage employees to return to the office.

Promoting new designs that provide meaningful amenities, focusing on strategies that prioritize wellness to support the whole person at work, and adopting an equitable approach to space design make the office a place where lawyers and staff will choose to work as part of their job. hybrid mixture.


Spatial programming should guide any office redesign, as square footage layout is determined by how each business wants to work in their space. As many law firms redesign their existing space and, in some cases, downsize post-COVID-19, flexibility is at the forefront of these decisions.

Law offices, where standard necessities include privacy and physical division of space to maintain confidentiality, present a unique flexibility challenge. Familiar configuration methods including floor-to-ceiling walls, glass films, sound insulation and corner desk are replaced with new methods to achieve the same level of discretion, now with flexibility and increased equity. Solutions include creating shared spaces for collaborative work; add one-size-fits-all office accommodation; the creation of accessible and shared leisure spaces; and moving private offices indoors to free up natural light for open workstations.

Take, for example, Hoge Fenton’s new office in San Jose, California, which was completed in May 2021. The company’s previous workspace included a large centralized library that turned into a common space of Fortune. To capitalize on this organic change, as well as complement their employees’ clear desire for connection and collaboration, the interdisciplinary team at design firm HGA removed the outdated library from the previous office program requirements and instead created a lounge with flexible space for group meetings and puzzles – a favorite activity among Hoge Fenton staff.

Designing for fluidity was key to the company’s future, which is why private offices along the periphery of the floor now include standardized sit-stand furniture solutions that are flexible for different working styles. . Plus, casual, unaddressed (unassigned) workspaces — from banquettes to clustered conversation seats — allow for quick meetings or just a change of scenery. A glass-fronted main conference room supports large group meetings and can open up to create a spacious common area that connects to the lobby. It can also be split into two medium-sized rooms, while several smaller Zoom Rooms and Phone Rooms support one-on-one meetings.

The new workplace encourages staff to return to the office or choose a hybrid model, with technology integration, on-demand remote collaboration and flexible workspaces taking center stage.

Dudensing Law’s interior space in Sacramento, California capitalizes on existing industrial features and architectural character with high ceilings, wood-framed beams and posts, exposed ductwork, and large windows that flood the interiors of natural light. Photo by Chad Davies.


Carefully orchestrated space programming can also support the strides that many law firms have made toward developing truly collaborative cultures that promote both inclusivity and fairness. Andrus Intellectual Property Law in Milwaukee wanted a setting for this built into its new prime location on the 22nd floor of the BMO Tower, which was completed in November 2020. So HGA’s design strategically places client spaces near the entrance for privacy purposes, while shared equipment and support spaces are centrally located to be accessible to all staff, regardless of rank or tenure.

Fair design decisions went beyond equal access to views. These design strategies included:

    • Setting up non-hierarchical spaces, ie without corner offices and moving some offices inwards.
    • Design for choice and neurodiversity, providing a range of spaces that have different levels of stimulation to allow people to choose the types of spaces that best support them personally and the work they do.
    • Adopt an equitable approach to the design process, engaging a range of voices to ensure inclusiveness.

Additionally, Andrus prioritized equal access to sweeping downtown views, wanting office workers to capture the views as soon as they arrive and have multiple opportunities to share views together. Therefore, the reception is deliberately offset to the side to provide an unobstructed view of the outside through the full-height glass conference room wall. This creates a bright, open and welcoming space as soon as someone gets off the elevator. Generously wide, full-height side windows along the office facades provide views and natural light to the paralegal positions placed within, so there is a cohesive connection to the outdoors as one moves through space.

brand identity

Thoughtful and subtle nods to a company’s brand and culture can help instill unconscious pride and core values ​​in employees.

A humble, modern approach to high-end law firm design has been executed for Andrus with simple, refined walnut wood finishes and clean, white forms accented by long linear detailing seen in the selections of interiors. lighting and cabinet handles. Cool grays and warm beiges in accent paints and rugs soften the space. Plants and artwork add another layer, softening the modern design and creating coziness. Andrus’ signature blue – represented minimally in every space through artwork, rug, painting or fabric – is a signature pop of color amidst a timeless neutral base.

Environmental graphics support the brand, including a modest matte black Andrus panel that’s visible upon entry and anchored by a warm wood veneer backdrop. The wood veneer feature introduces a magnified angular form by creating a change in plane and grain direction. It’s a conceptual nod to the “A” in the Andrus logo, and the angular language is further reflected throughout the office, as seen in a painted fur stripe pattern, applied decal and beautiful diagonal grain quartz slab.

The design team also created custom artwork based on historical patents from the Andrus Archive.


In the past decade alone, corporate clients have developed a sophisticated mastery of the language of sustainable and regenerative design. Many understand that achieving LEED or WELL certification for their building is about more than achieving energy efficiency or promoting a progressive corporate culture: it’s about attracting top talent and investing in the well-being of their employees.

Well-being can also be achieved through the workspace itself. In particular, a location adjacent to desirable amenities can play an important role in supporting employee well-being. In April 2018, Dudensing Law moved to the new Ice Blocks development in up-and-coming downtown Sacramento, California, renovated warehouses that have transformed a once neglected area into a vibrant urban center with work and entertainment spaces. retail. As a result, the new office is now surrounded by fitness studios, healthy food and grocery options, shopping destinations, cafes, access to e-bikes and more.

The interior space capitalizes on the development’s existing industrial features and architectural character with high ceilings, wood-framed beams and posts, exposed ductwork, and large windows that flood the interiors with natural light. Natural wood surfaces and neutral tones maintain the warehouse aesthetic. Shared common spaces and a cafe are clustered towards the center of the plan, with a variety of glass-walled conference rooms and private offices along the periphery. Abandoning formality and prioritizing comfort and natural light also promote employee well-being, and new shared common spaces are some of the things bringing lawyers back to the office post-pandemic.

The business world lives in an age of hybrid solutions, so the intentionality behind the physical space is more important than ever. Carefully designed spaces that truly meet lawyers’ professional and personal needs provide valuable reasons to return to the office.

Lisa Macaluso is the National Business Development Manager for Interior Design at HGA and one of the principals of the multidisciplinary design firm based in San Jose, California. She has extensive experience leading programming and strategic office planning for technology, start-up and professional services companies, including law firms. Macaluso leads the design teams through all phases of project development, creating interior architecture that is aesthetically exciting, functional and sustainable.

Haley Nelson is HGA’s national interior design expertise leader and a senior interior designer based in the company’s Los Angeles office. Drawing on her expertise as a designer and workplace strategist, she focuses on cultivating original ideas that support the creation of places where people and organizations can thrive. Many of Nelson’s projects have achieved the highest levels of sustainability and wellness certification, in addition to winning numerous design and sustainability awards.

Mind Your Business is a series of columns written by lawyers, legal professionals and others in the legal industry. The purpose of these columns is to offer practical advice to lawyers on how to manage their practices, to provide information on the latest trends in legal technology and how it can help lawyers work more effectively and strategies to build a successful business.

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This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal or the American Bar Association.

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