The changing face of Australia’s law firms
Mahogany and leather-bound books are out; in-house baristas and barbecue terraces are in, as Australia’s law practices undergo a tectonic shift in workplace design.
With office design trends changing faster than ever before, the very formal and stoically traditional world of law is quickly catching up, with firms now investing millions of dollars to ensure their workplaces are at the cutting edge.
“Law firms are thinking about workplace strategically”, says workplace strategist Kellie Payne from Bates Smart, which has designed more than 150,000sqm of legal workspace over the past 20 years.
“We are now seeing an emphasis on providing a broader range of opportunities for interaction with clients, from the in-house barista to the barbecue terrace and the dining room.”
While law firms are embracing the popular concept of open plan offices – with only 35% of legal staff now housed in traditional offices, down from 75% just nine years ago – the industry is now driving innovation, Payne says, by channeling boutique hotels for inspiration in the fitout of its firms.
“Law firms are looking to the creative and hospitality sectors for inspiring designs that engage clients, help retain staff and create a greater sense of wellbeing,” she says.
In-house cafes have become an everyday luxury, with velvet and leather finishes and European furniture, while many firms have also introduced commercial kitchens and an army of hospitality staff.
Bates Smart’s white paper The Legal Workplace 2020 predicts a dramatic decrease in the space allocated for each lawyer within a firm, with the 24sqm that each employee enjoyed in 2007 to be reduced to as little as 12sqm by 2020, as firms embrace flexibility and the potential for faster knowledge sharing.
National law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth is at the forefront when it comes to law office design, having revamped its offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth over the last three years.
Its redesigns included open, flexible and collaborative workspaces, as well as breakout and entertainment spaces and extensive catering facilities.