How a Melbourne Law Firm embraced agility, collaboration and connectivity

Angela Ferguson


The culture of practicing law can be intriguing, mysterious and even a little intimidating to anyone who is not a lawyer. It can also seem exciting and glamorous, especially if you’ve ever been a fan of TV shows such as Ally McBeal, LA Law, The Good Wife, Suits, Law and Order and Damages (or even Perry Mason for the baby boomers out there).
However, many law firms who’ve worked with Futurespace are nothing like what we see on TV and in fact they are badly in need of an intelligent brief that addresses 21st century ways of working. A Melbourne law firm who we recently worked with was housed in a fairly traditional physical environment (think loads of files on every surface, stuffy air quality, no visibility or sight lines and no concept of whether your colleagues are even in the building, let alone available to collaborate).

The practice was growing, and so a physical move also became an opportunity for the firm to address some of the business and cultural challenges they were facing. Their old premises were across 3 levels with no true connection between the floors. For this reason two disparate cultures had evolved, driving a wedge between the practice groups and shared services. And the old office environment certainly didn’t address the needs of young graduates, who were used to more flexible working styles (fresh from their university experience) and who were keen for mentoring from senior partners.

Futurespace worked with the partners to develop a brief that would uncover and then implement the needs of a modern law firm. Offices were retained (our team being unconvinced that 100% open plan is appropriate for lawyers) however support spaces were provided that meant opportunities for collaboration and team work were also available. New technology was implemented that meant staff had greater choice over where to work, and were not always forced to remain at the desk.
Perhaps the greatest enabler of communication and collaboration for this firm though was the addition of an interconnecting stair. The stair was a critical device in bringing people together, and this was further underpinned by co-locating a café hub at the base of the stair, encouraging people to come together in one place (as there was no decent coffee anywhere else in the work space!)
So legal workplaces may not be anywhere near implementing radical new ways of working; nor should they have to be. What is happening though is a blend of modern and traditional workstyles that address the needs of a cutting edge law firm to provide more agile ‘twenty first century’ environments.