find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Law firms lag behind other sectors in opening up to new office paradigm

Law firms lag behind other sectors in opening up to new office paradigm

While the writing is on the wall for traditional office spaces in firms of the future, law lags behind other professional services in embracing open layouts, according to a fit-out and refurbishment specialist.

Alex Corones, the general manager of workspace remodelling company SHAPE Australia, has said that while law firms will eventually shed their traditional office walls for mixed workspace layouts, other professions have been less hesitant to change.

“The accounting firms – KMPG, PwC, Deloitte – have moved to open-plan a little earlier. Indeed, PwC is moving into 480 Queen Street as well, and I know that they have a very heavily open-plan-based workspace. I think the law firms may have been a little bit slower to move and I think that has do with the tradition of the law firm,” Mr Corones said.

Brisbane lawyers from both Allens and DLA Piper have moved to embrace the open-plan paradigm as they settle into new office spaces in the completed 480 Queen Street high-rise, which also houses PwC. SHAPE recently worked on the mixed layout spaces for both firms in the Queensland building.

While relocation to a new premises is an opportunity for firms to experiment with new layouts, Mr Corones says what drives most firms to re-imagine their use of space boils down to culture. Ensuring the physical space manifests the values of the business is just as important as cutting overhead costs, he added.

“The predominant drivers to these firms assessing whether or not they’ll adopt a new or different workspace paradigm is largely culture-driven. So even though the conclusion of a lease or the opportunity to take up a new lease elsewhere may accelerate that decision, primarily they’re making their design decisions based on cultural drivers,” Mr Corones said.

“Fifteen years ago the Australian and world economy was seeing great growth, [then] we went through the GFC, which made everybody stop and think about what they do and how they do it. There was a much greater focus on ‘doing more with less’ as a broad term, and that came into the commercial commitments that businesses were making,” he explained. 

In the new Queen Street tower, Mr Corones said, DLA Piper have embraced a more open design. Consistent with the national offices of Allens and Herbert Smith Freehills, DLA has opted for a mix of open space and perimeter offices.

But for break-out rooms, he suggested that no one space would have a single function in the law firm of the future, and that the door of traditional office spaces is inching shut.

“We may see predominantly open-plan environments in law firms in the longer term, albeit there will always be a need for those quiet break-out rooms for lawyers to get away from the working floor or to have confidential conversations and so forth,” Mr Corones said.

“Perimeter offices for partners, especially for the senior associates, have been a thing to aspire to. It’s been a given, almost. What you see now is a number of law firms challenging that traditional paradigm,” he said.

Controversy can follow the decision to move walls and tables in an attempt to transform workplace culture. After all, change is uncomfortable. However, Mr Corones believes the shift has already happened. As in the offices of other professional services firms, it is only a matter of time before the silos in legal offices are brought out into the open, he suggested.

“It really goes back to the culture and the cultural outcomes, and indeed the commercial and productive outcomes that the partnerships are trying to drive within those firms themselves,” Mr Corones said.

“The change happens on a case-by-case basis, but we have really seen a greater trend in the last five years of law firms moving away from a traditionally office-based environment,” he said.

DLA Piper office in Brisbane
DLA Piper’s new Brisbane office layout has made more room for open, shared spaces.

Allens office in Brisbane
Allens’ workspace in the new 480 Queen Street building is part of a nationwide program to open the firm’s offices.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Law firms lag behind other sectors in opening up to new office paradigm
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Oct 20 2017
Podcast: One of law’s most infamous alumni – in conversation with Julian Morrow
In this episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Melissa Coade is joined by The Chaser’s Julian Morrow....
Oct 20 2017
High Court overturns ‘excessive’ anti-protest legislation
Bob Brown’s recent victory in the High Court over the Tasmanian government was a win for fundament...
Oct 20 2017
Changes to Australian citizenship laws blocked
Attempts to beef up the requirements to obtain Australian citizenship were thwarted this week, after...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...