Designing Lawyers

     Are younger people really all that different from older people?
     Well, OK, they’re younger, so they’re probably friskier and less cranky but do they, as a defined group, have vastly different preferences in life?
     Maybe they do, but I wonder about it. I wondered about it last week after the Washington Post published an article on an office move by the law firm Nixon Peabody that, supposedly, was designed to make “millennials” happy.
     My immediate reaction was that the new office would make me happy – and I’m an old guy.
     I fully admit to being weird, but I can’t believe there aren’t a lot of geezers out there who wouldn’t appreciate light open spaces and a feeling of workplace community as opposed to closed-off hierarchical architecture.
     (Now say “hierarchical architecture” fast 10 times. You’ll feel very silly.)
     And I’m pretty sure there are some young self-important types out there who want the closed-off corner office to show their importance.
     But even though I question the rationale for the office design change, I’m not going to criticize it. It sounds pretty great.
     I do, however, have a few minor quibbles and suggestions.
     For example, the story says: “The new office is not quite like those in Silicon Valley, where high-tech firms pioneered the reengineered office. There are no climbing walls or ping-pong tables.”
     Why not?
     Most clients are angry about something. Wouldn’t it make sense to put them in a better frame of mind with a quick wall climb or some ball-smashing?
     A shooting range with pictures of opposing parties would do the trick nicely too.
     Then there was this in the article: “With millennials’ desire to do good in the world, a new video wall will be programmed to play stories of how the work of the firm helps make the world a better place, particularly through financing community development projects.”
     Yes, let’s remind ourselves how wonderful we are.
     That seems pretty old-school to me.
     It also seems distracting in an open office. How are you supposed to get any work done with all that self-congratulation going on?
     If you must have a narcissistic video wall, show footage of firm members skipping hand-in-hand with clients while joyfully tossing money in the air after court victories.
     It’s motivational and aspirational.
     Design Tips: Of course, there is the possibility that this new law office design has more to do with saving money than with coddling millennials.
     If you do a little Internet wandering, you’ll find that this law firm office design, at least according to writers who enjoy finding trends with just a few examples, has been fashionable for a while – without any mention of millennials.
     My favorite piece of design advice came from a 2014 ABA Journal piece that included this office picture:

     “How do you handle a design project for a law firm that boasts both a strong culture and a healthy sense of fun? By creating a cutting-edge office space infused with the style of a boutique hotel.”
     I want to live in that office and invite friends. Throw in a big-screen TV and a fridge filled with beer and your clients will never leave.
     You’ll get all their business.
     By the way, I love the idea that a comfy couch is cutting edge. Add some bean bag chairs and a friendly dog and your edge will be razor sharp.

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