Open floor plans the way of the future

August 27, 2014
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In an effort to encourage mobility and collaboration and save money, walls are coming down in offices and work spaces are becoming more open.

A U.S. probation office in Chicago is the first in a pilot project of the Integrated Workplace initiative – a federal judiciary program to re-imagine and downsize the traditional office layout. The initiative seeks to cut office space, which in turn cuts rent bills, by using mobile technology.

Instead of having an assigned desk, people are able to use their smartphones, tablets or laptops to work anywhere in an IWI office. This open design will also promote more staff interaction.

The U.S. Courts says after the project is finished in 2015, the Chicago office redesign will reduce office space by 55 percent and save a projected $1.4 million in rent each year.

This same open-concept office is touted as the “law firm of the future,” according to architectural firm Gensler. It created a 5,000-square-foot exhibit as part of the Association of Legal Administrator’s annual conference and expo this past May.

Gensler’s website on the project, www.redesign-law.com, says in the future, legal work will be done differently so the office of the future needs to address these changes. The company believes law firms will need to be faster, more agile, transparent and client focused, and better managed.

“The law office of the future will be smaller, flexible, more collaborative, and technology enabled. It will look more like a business consulting firm than a law firm,” the site says.

The firm touts six key points for the law firm of the future:
-    Less is more – saving space while increasing efficiency;
-    Choice & balance – give employees a choice of where to work within the office;
-    Future proof – making your office today easily adaptable to future work styles;
-    Ubiquitous technology – portable technology is key;
-    Connect the dots – encourage face-to face and virtual engagement;
-    One size does not fit all – make sure to create a strategy that is best for your firm.

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP principal Sue Kerns in February 2013 also discussed how the company believes the next generation of law firms will look. ZGF’s future law firm also includes collaboration space (and nice, upscale lounges instead of break rooms. Goodbye, plastic chairs and horrible florescent lighting while eating lunch.)

Has your firm or office already gone to the law firm concept of the future? Does this design really work for a profession in which confidentiality is important? If your office is more open, have you seen greater savings in rent and more productivity among staff? 

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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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