Think law firms and one can easily drum up visions of dark, stuffy, carpeted interiors and even danker smells. Not so any more. Thanks to the growing number of tech-savvy younger law partners, modern design combined with the latest technology has finally invaded this bastion of spaces. Dark wood paneled-walls and leather-bound books have given way to brighter finishes, and more light and glass windows.
In the past, senior-most lawyers got the biggest and most coveted offices with windows. In these days of shrunk office space, firms are trying to be more economical by reducing the average office size and repurposing existing space to create more meeting and collaboration for both, lawyers and clients. The idea is to increase productivity, appeal to younger lawyers and adjust to new technology. “They want to be more efficient and have more balance of quality time with their families,” says Cindy Sorci, principal with Sorci & Swords Design Inc.
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings of Nashville, Tennessee was one such firm to pave the way when it set up office at Roundabout Plaza near Music Row nine years ago. It deliberately sought a floor plan that used space more efficiently and encouraged interaction among lawyers too dependent on email. Instead of room for secretaries, the firm made space for equipment and information technology staff to support attorneys.
Modern day technology allows lawyers to produce more of their own documents, instead of depending on the traditional secretary who assisted up to four attorneys. In addition, law firms are now giving attorneys digital access to paper files, saving space once used for large, centralized libraries. According to Mekesha Montgomery, the member-in-charge of the Nashville office of Frost Brown Todd LLC, “We’re trying very hard to get to paperless — eventually hoping our central filing becomes something else. But we’re not there yet.” Others like Leigh Walton, an attorney at Bass Berry, enjoys the view from the large glass window of her office.
Over all, technology upgrades have improved workflow so attorneys can collaborate with other firms or work from home; flow of information is more immediate, and lawyers are less paper bound and more efficient. Goodbye stuffiness!