According to the article, companies across the spectrum have looked to change up their office design and layout in a bid to get their workers back in the office. While law firms have been one of the most reliable industries to have returned to the office faster than many others during the past few years, many are not immune to the changing office culture. As law firms renew spaces and open new offices, the look and feel of law office environments are evolving now as well.
At Venable’s new Manhattan office, company leaders looked to emulate the comforts of home. “We wanted finishes that made it feel more residential,” said Borello, pointing to things like plant life and bronze borders around windows. “Folks were coming from their living rooms where they worked during the pandemic, and we wanted that comfort level,” he said.
The firm’s previous offices, at 1270 and 1290 Avenue of the Americas, had more of a traditional corporate office look, with a lot of opaque walls and small windows in a lot of offices. “It might as well have been 1977 in both offices, visually and psychologically,” said McLaughlin. In many of the spaces they visited, when looking at new locations, it felt clinical, with a lot of marble, steel, and glass. They wanted to go in a different direction. “We had a notion of building a special place that had a homey feel, a richer feel,” said McLaughlin.
One of the most distinctive features of the new office is an interior staircase that connects all the floors of the office. “We made clear early on it was a must-have for us,” said Borello. “We wanted to create as much collaboration and collisions as possible.” Creating space for interactions was important for the firm. Legal offices typically have more private offices and less common areas, but each floor of Venable’s new office has a seating area next to the central staircase, and even in private offices, designers added casual spaces that allow for more informal small gatherings.
Making their office a place where people want to be also ties into an important part of Venable’s ethos. Many firm leaders adhere to the idea that the practice of law is an apprenticeship model and that an apprentice learns best by watching and learning with colleagues. Running into a colleague and striking up a conversation, or casual collisions, as McLaughlin calls them, are “extremely valuable” in the apprenticeship model, and those can’t happen over Zoom. “I think we will end up with better trained lawyers for being in the office,” he said. “That’s why we put so much time and energy into building a model office.”
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