October 23, 2012


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Shape Up! Practice Management Tips for 2010

 Table of Contents | Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

November/December 2009 Issue | Volume 35 Number 7 | Page 37


As law firms of all sizes strive to create greater productivity within their organizations, many will inevitably turn to some of the obvious fixes—a shift in workloads, modification of staff levels and across-the-board cuts in overhead, just to name a few. Clearly, some of those steps may be beneficial, if not downright necessary. However, some firms may be surprised to learn that changes to their physical workplaces can also go a long way toward helping achieve greater productivity. Certain changes can be made to existing spaces, while others are more practical in new or renovated spaces. Regardless, modifications to a firm’s physical workplace can lead to increased collaboration, more idea sharing and improved morale, and contribute to the overall well-being of the firm’s personnel. Here are five ways a firm can modify its workplace to create a more productive environment.

1. CREATE SPACES THAT GET PEOPLE TALKING . Think about areas in the firm’s offices that can be modified so people can mingle in them and share ideas openly and casually. Lounge-seating arrangements, open library concepts and more gracious, lounge-like coffee bars are ideal for sharing ideas, information and impromptu advice. In most instances, such spaces can serve multiple functions to make it an easy and cost-effective change.

2. LEARN TO DO MORE WITH LESS. Part of creating a more productive work environment may reside in reducing the size of private office spaces. If your firm is looking at new space designs, consider reducing the size of the private offices and allocating some of this square footage for public, collaborative spaces. While lawyers at the partner level at one time may have balked at the idea of reducing the size of their offices, many are coming around to the benefits of doing more with less.

3. LOOK AT LIGHTING AND ACOUSTICS. Countless studies show that proper lighting and acoustic levels play a key role in increasing workplace productivity. With regard to acoustics, keep in mind that noise travels from office to office through plenum space above the ceiling. Add acoustical padding or pony walls to close gaps in your plenum space to create a quieter and ultimately more productive setting. For lighting, reduce your overall ambient light levels and incorporate task lighting controlled by dimmers and motion sensors.

4. MAINTAIN FLEXIBILITY WITHIN YOUR SPACE. Whether your firm is growing or contracting, maintaining a degree of flexibility within your workplace is key to managing the change associated with either trend. If your firm is in a growth phase, consider halving standard offices to form additional workstations. If you are contracting, vacant offices might be converted into small war rooms or huddle spaces just by changing out the furniture.

5. GROUP YOUR CONFERENCE ROOM WITH YOUR PUBLIC ENTRY SPACE. By locating your primary conference room near your entry, you can ease meeting setup as well as eliminate the need to escort visitors through a corridor of private offices—avoiding unnecessary disruptions to lawyers’ work in the process. The centralized space can also allow your firm to focus its main meetings technologies in one area.

Whether your firm is remaining in its existing space or considering relocating, keep these tips in mind to create a more productive and efficient workplace.

About the Authors

Malini Fuangvuthi, LEED AP, Heather Van Ravenswaay, RID, and Bonnie Wampler-Taras, RID LEED AP, are associates at PDR Corp., a Houston-based architecture firm specializing in the design and delivery of innovative workplace solutions.