Artboard Created with Sketch. Artboard Copy Created with Sketch.
New Ways of Working

This site uses cookiesMore Information.

Polsinelli Law Office Denver Reception Area 2 1900

Legal

Prioritizing choice in highly flexible, tech-enabled spaces.
Caitlin Turner 600
Caitlin Turner
Director of Interiors
Toronto
Tara Roscoe 329×329 1
Tara Roscoe
Director of Design, Interiors
New York
Prioritizing choice in highly flexible, tech-enabled spaces.

Legal practices are looking at the office in a new light. Questions they are asking include:

  • How much office space do we need to support our hybrid workforce?
  • How can space help recruit top talent and mentor the new generation?
  • What office environment best supports our clients and our practice?
  • How can we futureproof the office to adjust to changing needs?

HOK recently surveyed law firms across North America, asking these same questions and more. To aid our research, we poured over benchmarking data from law industry sources and reviewed existing legal workplace projects to gather contextual and comparative information and insights. We also looked across industries to examine what companies in consulting, finance and government are doing when it comes to rethinking the modern office.

White Case New York Office Reception 1900

Where We Are / Where We Are Headed

The majority of firms responding to our survey now work in a hybrid manner, with staff coming into the office two to three days per week. Most respondents reported a desire to reduce their overall real estate portfolio (if they haven’t already done so), while a select few are actually expanding.

Despite a general preference to downsize the workplace, one-to-one office assignments remain popular among our law firm respondents, with the average private office for an attorney falling between 600-800 square feet. Several respondents also reported establishing single-size office standards to both reduce the total footprint of the workplace and foster a greater sense of equity among partners and associates.

Overall, the survey found that today’s  law firms are prioritizing flexibility, choice, technology and wellness within the workplace. These hybrid-work friendly offices come equipped with the planning and infrastructure that allows them to pivot to suit a variety of needs. Such spaces also are enabling firms to enhance productivity, foster collaboration and support firm culture—often while reducing the actual size of the office.

Technology plays a bigger role than ever in law office design and firms are using hardware and software tools to communicate with remote colleagues, share digital files and leverage the emerging power of artificial intelligence. At the same time, the legal workplace must also compete with people’s home offices, and firms are realizing that modern law offices need additional levels of comfort, choice, convenience and amenities.

In the following sections, we dive deeper into the trends that are influencing the present and future of law offices.

PPolsinelli Law Office Dallas 2 1900

Optimization + Flexibility

Law firms are increasingly optimizing their offices with adaptable workspaces that can adjust to changing work styles, team sizes, and technology requirements. To achieve this real estate optimization, firms must commit to examining current workplace utilization and—from there—establish visions and goals for the future.

Current trends and workplace solutions emphasize the reduction in square footage of individual private offices in favor of equal-size offices (regardless of seniority) and more collaborative meeting areas. This shift is facilitated through the implementation of modular planning that allows the office to respond to evolving needs. Such workplaces can be reconfigured to accommodate additional space, different types of workstations, or emerging technologies. This approach stands in contrast to traditional law office design, which often neglected factors like flexibility, scalability and adaptability.

White Case New York Office Team Area 1900
Cafe Diagram

Flexible and modular workspaces empower organizations to maximize their resources and utilize space efficiently while minimizing costs and disruptions. With the ability to perform light-touch renovations and furniture reconfigurations, planning blocks can be rearranged to align with changing requirements. An example of this can be found in highly flexible café areas that can easily transform from a dining space to a town hall space for hosting all-hands meetings or client events.

18 32055 00 N36 Hokscreen

Workstyle Choice

Today’s productive and inclusive workplace environments incorporate a variety of space types and settings catering to different work styles. In the context of law firms, where privacy, focus, acoustics and comfort are prioritized, the following elements can enhance work settings:

Highly complex spaces: These designated areas offer individuals a place to focus and concentrate on complex tasks. These spaces should be acoustically sound and provide good lighting (ideally natural light) to create a comfortable and stimulating work environment.

Private offices with alternative work points: These flexible private spaces can be adapted to individual needs and preferences, such as the ability to work standing or sitting. These workplaces can also have alternative work points, such as semi-enclosed and open office options, which cater to different work styles and collaboration requirements.

Workplace Variety Diagram
Flexible Room Diagram

Optimized private offices: These private offices are optimized for heads-down work while remaining flexible enough to accommodate small group meetings of 2-4 people. This can be achieved by offering a kit of parts with curated options for furniture and layout, allowing individuals to customize their workspace based on their specific needs.

Soundproof, closed-door spaces with glass fronts: These soundproof, closed-door spaces ensure privacy while still allowing access to daylight through glass fronts. This design approach balances the need for confidentiality with the benefits of natural light, creating a comfortable and visually appealing work environment.

Social spaces, lounges: Should we also mention group and social spaces here as alternative workplaces w/in the office for people who are more on the hyposensitive side of the spectrum?

 

By incorporating these elements into the workplace, law firms can provide an environment that supports the primary activities of analyzing, writing, and corresponding while accommodating the diverse needs and preferences of employees that is so important for retention and productivity.

BCG Boardroom 1900

Tools + Technology

Modern law offices are leveraging technology to provide employees greater control over their work environment and the ability to connect with internal and external partners. At the same time, technology is allowing firms to store fewer paper files at the office, freeing up space for other uses. Advancements in technology, particularly artificial intelligence, could further reduce the need for certain staffing roles, including administrative assistants and paralegals.

Here are a few ways law firms are using technology to enhance and reshape the office:

Video conferencing and meetings: Tech-infused meeting rooms allow attorneys to seamlessly connect for virtual court hearings and hold video calls and presentations with people outside office. Such spaces require special attention to lighting, acoustics, furniture and monitor placement and size to ensure meeting participants (especially those attending remotely) can easily and freely engage in conversation.

0 Legal Sector Design X HOK 2023 TR Comments
18 24404 00 N8 Hokscreen

Education and branding: Media rooms, outfitted with recording equipment and greenscreens and/or branded backdrops, are being used to create promotional and educational content, such as podcasts and webinars, which can be used for branding as well as recruitment.

Data storage and admin services: Technology is also being used to free up real estate within the legal workplace as never before. Documents are being digitized instead of housed on-site in row after row of file cabinets. Space needs for administrative assistants is also declining with project and planning software allowing attorneys to perform certain admin tasks themselves. More admins are also being allowed to work remotely, further reducing the need on-site desking.

Polsinelli Office HQ Interiors 2

While technology offers many advantages, it should be implemented in a way that aligns with the unique needs and practices of the legal profession. Balancing the benefits of technology with the privacy, security, and ethical considerations inherent to the legal field is crucial for successful implementation and adoption.

05 650 Main 1900×1270 1

Health + Wellness

Organizations are placing greater emphasis on health and wellness in the workplace, and law firms are no exception. Spaces that support choice, relieve stress and foster community, can help employees manage work-life balance, resulting in happier and more-productive staff that aids recruitment and retention.  Here are some ways that law firms are prioritizing health and wellness within the office:

Fuel stations: Many firms are looking beyond central dining hubs to also include spaces where employees can refuel throughout the day. These spaces can include coffee bars—complete with baristas—or grab-and-go fuel stations with multiple beverage and snack options. Healthy food options are particularly popular with some firms providing staff access to juice, kombucha and fresh fruit. On the flip side, some firms are also including bespoke spaces for employees to unwind, socialize and entertain with in-house bars and speakeasies.

WPP Amenity Coffee Bar 1900
HOK KC Office 0247 1270

Wellness rooms: Law can be a stressful profession. Dedicated rooms for individual meditation and prayer or quiet group activities, such as yoga and tai-chi, help attorneys and staff to support their mental health. Many firms are also providing lactation rooms for new mothers to further promote work-life balance and whole family health.

Gyms and showers: On-site exercise rooms and showers allow employees to get a workout in before and after work or during the lunch hour. On-site bike and scooter shortage is another way law firms are encouraging physical fitness and active commuting.

Nature and daylight: Studies have shown that biophilia—access to nature and daylight—improve physical and emotional health. Ways that law firms are introducing biophilia into the office include green walls and live plantings, furniture and finishes made from natural materials, rugs and wall graphics with organic shapes and diffused lighting. Wi-Fi-enabled terraces and decks are another great way firms are providing staff with access to the outdoors while remaining connected.

Polsinelli Law Office Denver Team Area 1900
Hok Miami Workspace 1900

Ergonomics and choice: Furniture selection and work setting choice are important with attorneys and staff wanting the option to sit and stand while working and the ability to work from different spaces within the office. This type of work setting choice supports employees across the neurodiversity spectrum from hyposensitive (those who prefer greater stimulation) to hypersensitive (those who prefer quiet and solitude). Firms might even consider programming the office to progressively transition from areas that are louder and more social to areas that are less active and, finally, to spaces reserved for quiet, heads-down focus.

Polsinelli Law Office Dallas 4 1900

Conclusion

Today’s legal workplace is characterized by a distinct look, feel, and functionality that is remarkably different from the dark-wood, hierarchy-based law offices of the past. These tech-infused, highly flexible offices are perhaps most notable for the choice they provide employees, allowing them to find a work setting that best meets their immediate needs. But the benefits don’t stop there.

The modern law office also caters to the emotional and physical health of their employees, aid in recruitment and retention and support corporate culture and branding. Best of all, these innovative spaces often do more for less, requiring less physical real estate than traditional law offices while having a bigger impact on productivity and profitability.

Let's Connect

Caitlin Turner
Director of Interiors, Canada
caitlin.turner@hok.com

Tara Roscoe
Director of Design, Interiors
tara.roscoe@hok.com

2022AK17_137-10th-and-O-2400×1600
Next:
Government
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now

×