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Facelift for Brisbane firm

Facelift for Brisbane firm

QUEENSLAND’S OLDEST law firm has dusted off its image, swapping old for new and oldish at its Brisbane centre premises.McCullough Robertson’s ambitious new office fitout in Brisbane’s Central…

QUEENSLAND’S OLDEST law firm has dusted off its image, swapping old for new and oldish at its Brisbane centre premises.

McCullough Robertson’s ambitious new office fitout in Brisbane’s Central Plaza Two marks over five years of strong, even “spiked” growth. Tradition met innovation, with antique doors from the 1930s used in boardrooms, and the radical addition of a functional staircase.

Eighty years ago exactly, two rural lawyers founded the firm — Robert McCullough, a country lad from Barcaldine, and Jack (known as Jock) Robertson, a “city boy with a country heart”, as he is affectionately known in the firm.

Now the firm, which comprises 31 partners and 148 senior lawyers, is more likely to be engaged in corporate M&As than on agribusiness issues for private graziers as it used to, making it appropriate that the firm “pull itself into the 21st century”, said Phil Wibaux, McCullough Robertson’s operations manager.

Prior to the fitout, McCullough Robertson occupied four discrete floors, scattered throughout the building, with the reception an awkward one floor above the lift interchange. Post-reconstruction, the firm has been compacted into four linked floors, with reception at the lift exit point.

Explaining the importance of linking the floors, chief designer Kirsti Simpson of Hassell said: “Both we and the client thought it was important culturally to have collaboration among the practice areas — that they have to be part of one organisation.”

The ultimate ‘connecting’ device turned out to be the stairs, one of Hassell’s architectural motifs, which was placed in the middle of the building, joining the four floors of the firm. Made of solid wood with glass siding and substantial banisters, they aim to bring light and movement to every staff member present in the rooms. “Because everyone can see who is going up and down it looks like there is lots of activity in the building,” said Wibaux.

The staff loved the stairs so much that they rarely use the lifts. “In a modern building stairs are fantastic,” said Wibaux. “You get aerobic exercise. We feel joined together. Life’s good.”

The firm also decided to make office space non-hierarchical. No matter if associate or partner, everyone has a well-lit office of roughly the same meterage. “It’s a general trend — if the business changes or someone’s promoted, you want to have flexibility with housing them,” said Simpson. “This will allow us to grow and shrink divisions in the future, while providing quality offices all the way through,” said Wibaux.

Despite a “very tight” budget, the designers tried to call up the history of the firm in the new fitout. With pale creamy limestone floors, textured timber wall panelling and copper screens, the designers aimed for a “comfortable Queensland aesthetic, not a stuffy feel — very relaxed,” said Simpson.

With the firm turning eighty years old this year, it was keen to link its future with the solid history behind it. That meant bringing in seventy-year old timber doors with brass handles from the firm’s former premises, and naming rooms after the founding partners and other partners, like Kerry Prior, who retired in May after being with the firm 40 of its 80 years.

The firm made several new appointments on the eve of the end of the financial year. Trudy Naylor, (insurance and risk management), Derek Pocock (corporate advisory) and Russell Thirgood (infrastructure and dispute resolution) were all internal partner appointments. Naomi Arnold (business and revenue), Angela Petie (employment and IR), Tim Weidman (corporate) and James Cameron (intellectual property) were internally promoted to senior associate level.

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