The goal of rising through the ranks, making partner and enjoying the view from a large corner office may not be attainable in the coming years. Career success and striving to make partner are still reasonable goals, but as the legal landscape has changed over recent years, the development of the legal workspace of the future is adapting to meet the needs of a changing workforce.

Steve Martin, principal at Genslar and the firmwide leader of their Global Law Firm Practice, presented at AALL 2016 to discuss the advancements, challenges and drivers of change in legal workspaces.

Martin noted that there are numerous reasons driving the change in legal workspaces. Most notably is the economic implosion and changing legal market. Additionally, he displayed several other change-agents through a word cloud with the most notable among them: mobility, technology, innovation, generational, diversity, globalization, collaboration, health and wellness, and client demands.

The discussion highlighted the needs and benefits of changing the workspace model to optimize performance, increase productivity and maximize profitability. Six change-agents were the focus of the discussion: Less is More; Choice/Variety/Balance; Future Proof; Ubiquitous Technology; Connect the Dots; and One Size Does Not Fit All.

Martin noted that firms are reducing their footprint by 15-40 percent while still growing headcount. And through Genslar’s analysis with clients, they found only 60-70 percent of office space was occupied on any given day. This impacts the use of space within the firm, and by creating a vibrant, updated environment that meets the needs of staff, students and clients, the space offers more utilization.

Leveraging less is more, new workspaces have capitalized on the changes in the workforce. As some administration duties have been eliminated or moved off-site, many of these workstations and areas have been redeployed as collaboration hubs or activity-based workstations. Tapping into the creative and functional design of the offices gives the employees a choice of where they can work such as a café via wi-fi or in a casual conference room with another colleague. Martin noted that choice provides staff different avenues to focus, collaborate, learn and socialize. Plus, he shared a few photos featuring new offices with collaboration areas, new workspaces, equal size offices and even an exterior lounge area with a firepit – all of which received envious reactions from the audience.

Through designing a new office, Martin emphasized the need to future proof which enables greater flexibility to adjust office space for growth, collaboration or additional needs. Modern technology means that staff can do their work from just about anywhere, so it is imperative to make a workspace inviting. This also has the potential to attract clients who want to leverage the environment for meetings or functions.

Martin was clear to make sure everyone understood that each firm or organization is unique and there is not a plug-and-play model that works across the legal industry. Although, he did suggest that each entity craft its own personal strategy, incorporating the culture and model of the business as they embark on this endeavor.


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