16 / BUILDING DIALOGUE / November 2019 Law is Constant, but Lawyers are Not: Designing Office Space for the Next Generation N o offense, but we don’t want to focus on de- sign. We want a func- tional space.” While this statement from Eric Olson, former partner at Bartlit Beck, currently Colorado's solicitor general, might seem like a cryptic thing to say at a new space kick-off meeting (with the designers), it set the tone very clearly: For them, func- tion and efficiency come first. “Our goal is to have all of our at- torneys on one floor,” he continued, “andacousticprivacy is paramount.” By contrast, consider this state- ment from Liz Sharrer, the chair of Holland & Hart – communicating that, for them, change and disrup- tion should be embraced in order to maintain their competitive edge and build for the future: “We want a transformational space where the next generationwill prosper; it needs to carry our heritage forward, be based in sustainable values and look toward the future.” Outwardly, these are two very different premises. Inwardly, both are united by a clear manifesto to de- sign for the next generation. Having all attorneys on one floor reinforces the younger generation’s desire to makeconnections, bementoredandcapitalizeonacol- lective brain trust. Both premises are laser-focused on efficiency, attracting and retaining the best talent, and delivering superior technology as a key part of the fi- nancial equation inorder to support andengage talent. In her talk “How Not to be a Taxi in an Uber world” in Denver in August, Amanda Schneider, president of ThinkLab noted, “The world has seen more change in the past five years than the past 30 years.” When you consider this statement in the context of lawoffice de- sign, it is exceptionally relevant. Law firm values are having to change exponentially in response to escalat- ingreal estatecostsandevolving idealsof youngergen- erations. Hierarchy and status may always be part of the lawfirmculture, butwhile it has traditionallybeen measured in terms of individual attorney space, it is nowbeingmeasuredmoreas a culturalwhole. Inother words, hierarchy and status are nowachieved through cultural differentiation, superb technology and prime real estate. Landing prime real estate requires some radical pat- tern shifts for lawfirms.Withexplodingproperty taxes being passed through to tenants in addition to record high load factors in new buildings, a 20% to 30% (or more) spatial reduction makes the financial equation more feasible. Beyond office size reduction, some law firms will look to achieve spatial “reductions” through initiating satellite work plans and offloading adminis- trative departments to less expensive off-site locations. They will need to be cautious in this approach, how- ever. Studies show that millennials and Gen-Z employ- ees will make up 70% of the workforce in just four years. While these generations say they would like the option to work off site one or two days a week, they also want mentoring, collegiality and cultural engage- ment at work. This indicates that theywant towant to come in to work and be part of something larger than themselves, so it’s important not to overestimate the frequency of remoteworkwhen planning an ideal law space. In a recently published article for the Harvard Busi- ness Review by Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber enti- tled, “The Truth About Open Office,” they say: “…remote work, while undeniably cost-effective, tends to signifi- cantly inhibit collaboration even over digital channels. While studyingamajor technologycompany from2008 to 2012, we found that remote workers communicated nearly 80% less about their assignments than collocat- ed team members did; in 17% of projects they didn’t communicate at all. The obvious implication: If team membersneedto interact toachieveprojectmilestones on time, you don’t want themworking remotely.” Gillian Hallock Johnson, LEED AP ID+C Principal, EUA Design Forward “ In their new office design, Bartlit Beck integrated a multitude of choices for meeting and individual work styles. This elegant and relaxed living room area is connected to the work café to inspire interaction amongst attorneys and staff.
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