Modern law firm
 

Overcoming challenges in the modern law firm

There has been significant discussion and debate surrounding what the “modern” law firm will look like. Is the floor plan open? Private corner offices? Or is it all glass? Issues such as undervalued administrative staff, attracting and retaining young talent have compelled law firms to reconsider their office design, prioritizing a meaningful space that enhances the workplace and client experience. It is imperative for law firms to make well-considered design decisions that improve the workspace while also considering their unique needs. Unlike many other industries that are facing uncertainty, lawyers have seen an increase in demand for legal services in recent years. With a surge in deals, litigation, and other business transactions, legal firms are expanding or moving to larger spaces, raising the question, “How can lawyers modernize their office to meet the increase in work demand?”  

It is critical to recognize that trends adopted by other industries, such as an open office plan, are unlikely to work for law firms. It is pivotal to have a workspace that meets the specific requirements of a law firm and accommodates how they work. Due to the nature of their profession, lawyers require private spaces and quiet areas to focus on their work. However, this does not necessarily disqualify legal offices from evolving and innovating to better serve their employees and clients.

Read on to discover developments modern law firms are implementing to overcome challenges and improve the work environment. 

 

Challenge: Knowledge transfer  

Law firms faced a daunting, unprecedented challenge when forced to work from home during the last few years. With the return to the office, most of the corporate world is demanding more flexibility with work styles due to the ease of working hybrid and remotely. Legal professionals on the other hand, have found hybrid work as a considerable challenge. The most difficult aspect of implementing a hybrid working style is striking a balance.

It is difficult for law firms to work remotely because some roles require employees to work together face-to-face. The main issue of not having employees in the office is that knowledge transfer is impeded. Knowledge transfer is “the process of imparting knowledge from one part of your business (or person) to another and it is critical to your business’s success.” Yes, law firms must be flexible to remain appealing as an employer; however, if people are not in the office, knowledge transfer becomes a concern.  

Solution: Mentorship and engaging with peers  

According to a study by Gensler, associates believe that “coming into the office is critical to their success because it catalyzes the sort of collaboration and knowledge sharing high-quality work requires.” People will be drawn in if you invest in your office space and are intentional with your planning and purpose. Individuals will gather if the office space is inviting and there is a buzz, supplying more opportunities for younger staff to receive mentorship from Partners and gain valuable exposure within the firm. Firms that offer mentorship, team connection, access to coaching and feedback, developing proficiency, and engaging with peers to young associates see an increase in knowledge transfer, resulting in a strengthened workforce. 

 

Challenge: Administrative personnel are being poached  

In the world of law, office size and location have always mattered. Large corner offices are reserved for season partners, smaller offices for newer partners, even smaller for associates, and non-existent for administrative and support staff. This rigid approach supports an internalized hierarchy that leads to detachment and undervalued support staff. With all the best spots going to partners and associates, administrative and support staff often are left behind. When administrative staff are undervalued and overlooked, they can be easily poached by other firms that offer better working conditions. It is critical to pay attention to your support staff and find strategies to empower them.  

Solution: Rearrange floor plan to accommodate all workers  

As aforementioned, law firms need dedicated spaces and private offices. However, there are solutions that businesses can implement to create a more evenly distributed workplace that benefits everyone, not just the top performers. The first solution is to restructure the floor plan, placing private offices in the center and allowing workspaces and administrative staff to work on the outside, allowing more natural light to shine through and supplying sunlight to everyone. You can create a better work environment that increases productivity and emphasizes wellness. 

 

Challenge: Balancing privacy with wellness

Lawyers are coached on precedent, often extending to their physical workspace, where privacy and physical separation of space are the norm. Creating a fair and non-hierarchal space can be challenging because of the need for privacy. Some lawyers require corner offices to hold client meetings and legal discussions in private, away from the rest of the office. So, how can law firms strike a balance between privacy and better working conditions for staff found on the interior?  

Solution: Glass walls with glazing 

For hardworking attorneys and legal staff who work long hours, wellness is paramount. If your company is hesitant to make significant changes to your workplace structure, incorporating glass doors/walls to allow light to shine through the entire floor is a subtle way to take a step forward in wellness. A well-lit office boosts employee productivity by reducing issues like headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision. To allow for more privacy you can add glaze or frost to the glass. The frosting on the glass allows light to shine through while also supplying some privacy. The key to creating a more balanced workplace is to create welcoming and desirable interior zones that are not subpar compared to the coveted perimeter zones. 

Conclusion  

There is no denying that workplaces are changing; law firms must adapt to the shifting dynamic while adhering to how their staff works best. Several factors such as company growth, evolving work styles and new age demographics, law firms must shift away from traditional organizational models to better meet the needs of all employees, not just senior associates. Our team of workplace strategists have helped several clients in the Canadian legal sector make strides in finding unique solutions to issues of hybrid work, transparency, and wellness.  

To learn more about how your company can optimize your workplace while also keeping processes that work best for your staff, Contact Us.