Fried Frank's Washington DC office. Image by Gensler.
Fried Frank's Washington DC office. Image by Gensler.

Designing a More Flexible, Healthy, and Expressive Legal Office

At last week’s Association of Legal Administrators annual conference in Grapevine, Texas, I had the pleasure of speaking with and presenting to some of the legal industry’s most innovative specialists. I learned a great deal about which trends are likely to have the biggest impact on our field, and how the look, feel, and function of the legal office will change in the future.

One trend that has gained traction as of late is the importance of brand and storytelling in helping to express a firm’s identity. When it comes to recruitment and retention, it’s no longer enough just to have a workplace that functions well. A workplace has to capture and enhance a firm’s culture through a variety of design approaches, including creative wayfinding strategies, use of art, meaningful placemaking in regard to conference zones and amenity strategies, purposeful choices in materiality, color, font, and countless other details.

Integrating brand with legal workplace design comes down to three main components: embracing a firm or local office’s location, establishing legibility to make their culture immediately understandable to outsiders, and evoking emotion to tell a meaningful, memorable story. When all of these elements come together, it makes employee experiences better, increasing the internal resilience of a firm and ultimately increasing its competitiveness in the market.

Another trend we spent a lot of time talking about is how to make the legal workforce more resilient. Flexibility is absolutely key these days, with lawyers working differently than they ever have before and needing to toggle back and forth between multiple work types throughout the day.

To this end, we are immensely proud of the work we have done in conjunction with Fried Frank DC on their recent renovation. The office’s enhanced café, robust amenity offerings, and collaborative associate Neighborhood all mark significant evolutions in legal workplace design. It’s a really unique story and an inspiring vision for a healthier legal workforce, which we capture in the piece “The Resilient Legal Workplace: Flexibility in Practice,” available here.

I want to thank everyone involved with making 2019’s ALA Conference a success and look forward to our continued involvement in the future.

With an eye on these trends, and with some unbelievable client examples to share, Gensler produced a white paper entitled, So What’s Your Story? The How and Why of Integrating Brand with Legal Workplace Design, which is available for download here.

Steve Martin
Steve partners with visionary law firm leaders to help them make tough strategic decisions that impact their future. His expertise in strategic consulting has led him to work with firms of all sizes, from local boutiques to global accounts. Contact him at .