The optimal law firm office design is a combination of comfort, branding and safety
Today an increasing number of law firms are putting greater emphasis on the design of their offices as they feel it is crucial to their reputation and business growth. Designers say that the ideal law firm office design should combine comfort with elements of the law firm’s culture; and with the pandemic happening. safety has also become an important factor.
In China, one of the manifestations of the continuous improvement of material living standards is people's pursuit of comfortable and aesthetically pleasing living and working space. Indeed, a well-designed office can make a big difference to the staff. A managing partner of a law firm, which just moved into a new office this year, shared with ALB China that their new office had made the lawyers feel more motivated and energetic.
But what is “good” law firm office design, and how is it different from designing other types of organisations?
Professional designers feel that at the very least, office design should cater to people’s most basic needs. “A good space design should be able to show care for people’s sight, hearing, feeling and health,” says Ken Tsang, director of design at Joe Ho Associates Limited.
He further explains: “Visual light color temperature should be kept soft to achieve the best comfort. Secondary light sources should be used to avoid direct projection of light onto people. The illumination should be matched according to the functions of different areas. When it comes to hearing, materials such as sound-absorbing panels, soft bags and carpets can effectively reduce noise, which is conducive to the concentration of lawyers' work. Speaking of feeling, per capita fresh air and air conditioning cooling is an important measure, whereas for people’s health, offices should increase the green plant soft outfit, use more environmental protection material.”
In addition to comfort, many firms can choose to incorporate the firm's culture and philosophy into their office designs in order to better highlight their identity and present a more impressive image. This ties in with Chinese law firms' efforts in recent years to strengthen brand recognition and make branding consistent.
Although such requirements can pose a design challenge, Tsang believes that effective communication is the key to delivering the desired office. "Our understanding of the culture and characteristics of the firm depends very much on how we communicate with the firm. A law firm has multiple partners, each of whom has different views on design. Therefore, we suggest setting up a project design subcommittee to communicate ideas on functional and style requirements of the firm."
Tsang also shares an interesting case. "One of our clients is a long-established law firm with a deep understanding and heritage of Chinese culture, so we applied the concept of 'birds return to their nests' in designing their new offices. The ceiling triangle represents the wing of a giant roc, and we carved the character ‘灋’ from the old office at the reception as a spiritual inheritance. Also, the new office is located in a high-rise Grade A office building in the Beijing CBD, with all the surrounding views under feet. Therefore, after discussion with the client, we divided the four corners into cooperation areas respectively under the themes of ‘plum, orchid, chrysanthemum, bamboo’, giving people a better experience of the view.”
At present, affected by the pandemic, how to provide employees with a safer office environment has become a concern for many law firms. Since returning to work, many firms have resorted to low population densities, physical distancing and limiting time spent in office areas.
To aid them in their goals, Tsang also proposes flexible, collaborative and diversified office spaces. He explains: “Lawyers' work has high requirements on privacy, so law firms usually set up a large number of lawyers' offices and meeting rooms, and the office area is also densely staffed. Therefore, I suggest that during the epidemic, law firms use public spaces and internal cafes to set up a more diversified office space, including open working area, closed working area and recreational space to support a safer and more effective use of office. It highly matches with the current new working mode and people can communicate better in a limited working space while their safety is guaranteed.”
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