Evolution of the Legal Workplace

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DLA Piper’s David Mendelsohn, Managing Partner, has a message for all the law firms out there looking to revamp their space: “Do not hold back. Be as creative and bold as your firm’s culture allows you to be.”

legal workplace

DLA Piper’s David Mendelsohn said if you want employees to be productive, it’s about starting with clear objectives, knowing what you want to accomplish and then staying committed to those objectives every step of the way.

While the traditional office sector has been at it for years, law firms are beginning to see the value in modernizing their space to stay competitive and attract top talent. With the help of JLL’s Law Firm Practice Group, DLA Piper did just that.

Earlier this year, DLA left its home of nearly 30 years, 203 N. LaSalle, and made its way to River Point, the gleaming 52-story office tower perched at 444 W. Lake overlooking the Chicago River. The move symbolized the global law firm’s commitment to focusing on its people and creating a productive work environment.

So how can other firms like DLA use their real estate to engage and retain employees and remain competitive?

JLL dove into this discussion recently inside DLA’s brand new office and in front of an audience of nearly 100 of Chicago’s law firm leaders.

legal workplace

Attendees had the opportunity to tour the new home of the global law firm at 444 W. Lake. The 175,000 square-foot office space, which meets LEED® GOLD standards and was designed by Pickard Chilton, offers panoramic views of the city, including the landscaped Chicago Riverwalk.

Start with a clear objective.

Like many others looking for a new office space, DLA prioritized things like location and layout. But their biggest focus? Productivity potential.

“It all starts with having a clear objective about what you want to accomplish and then staying committed to those objectives, especially when it comes to those tough decisions you’re going to have to make along the way,” said JLL’s Steve Steinmeyer.

“The legal services market is changing so rapidly, and it’s important to know your firm and where you want to be,” said Mendelsohn. “We kept a focus throughout the entire process on creating a wonderful space where our people would be engaged and productive.”

Focus on people.

With productivity at the forefront of every decision, DLA worked closely with JLL, architecture firm Gensler and Clune Construction to understand the factors that would enable employees to become more productive.

Mendelsohn said they made a keen effort to engage DLA employees throughout the process of the buildout.

“We sent out a lot of communications, gave people the opportunity to weigh in our decisions before we made them and showed people how we were progressing along the way,” said Mendelsohn. “We were able to achieve consensus on most of our decisions but it happened carefully and over time.”

Build a productive and efficient workplace.

legal workplace

JLL’s Bill Rogers walks through 3-30-300 of real estate. Learn more here.

There is a “3-30-300” rule of thumb that organizations typically spend approximately $3 per square foot per year for utilities, $30 for rent and $300 for payroll. While these figures are just archetypes, JLL’s Bill Rogers broke down the 3-30-300 model and showed just how the greatest financial savings from greening a workplace come not just in the form of energy but in productivity.

For example, where a 10 percent increase in energy efficiency would yield $0.30 savings per square foot and a 10 percent decrease in rent would save $3 per square foot, a 10 percent gain in productivity is worth $30 per square foot. In addition to having the right types of space for various job functions, a design layout that promotes chance encounters and interactions between employees can greatly improve performance and productivity.

So how is DLA’s space impacting people’s productivity?

Mendelsohn said it’s about both flexibility and a collaborative space that allows movement without disruption. “A big factor for us was pushing the use of collaborative spaces and backing it up with technology,” said Mendelsohn. “While we’re giving lawyers less room in their offices, we want them to be mobile and we want to make it easy for them to go into a conference room, put in a code and tap into a screen immediately.” And this strategy is already working for DLA. Mendelsohn says that employees are using the multi-purpose rooms the most since moving in.

Those tech-enabled spaces inside DLA have evolved from a behind-the-scenes role to a crucial element of many firms and office spaces today.

Vince Gutekanst, Managing Director in Clune’s Chicago office, said while the progression of design and functionality has certainly impacted costs, the biggest drivers, 40 to 50 percent of construction costs overall, are those that aren’t even visible. “Technology has gone off the charts. Everyone wants to plug and play wherever they are, so it’s the infrastructure and the costs above the ceilings and behind the walls that you don’t even see.”

A law firm of the future.

This thoughtful planning and design, coupled with a focus on people and productivity, has now earned DLA a workplace that meets the needs of its diverse, multi-generational workforce—both now and in the future.

“The world has shifted, it’s vastly different and it’s going to shift even more—and we don’t even know how,” said Erin Sherman, Senior Project Designer and Regional Leader for Gensler. “Future changes, those we cannot even predict or see, can now happen and be addressed without any construction here.”

For more information on JLL’s law firm solutions, please contact:
Bill Rogers – @BRogersChi
Steve Steinmeyer – @Steino_TRep
Brian Means – @BrianMeans_JLL