Farrar Gesini Dunn and Certus Law have together built great new premises which will enable us to enjoy the benefits of being located on the same floor and remaining secure and independent from one another.
We changed the way we work. Its called Activity Based Working (ABW) and there’s no paper (well maybe a little bit). No one (even partners and even the CEO) has an office and no one even has their own desk. Instead we have designed spaces for particular tasks – such as telephone rooms, rooms designed specifically for meeting clients and larger meetings, spaces for discussion and collaboration and spaces for quiet reflection and work. To make this work we’ve made another big transition: to a method of working that is electronic and not reliant on paper. We call it ‘paperless’ but it’s not really. There’s still paper – just only those bits that we really really need.
And it looks amazing! We have an indoor garden complete with swing and egg chair, a big kitchen, a series of meeting rooms that move and open up and another series of meeting rooms inspired by New York loft design.
A lot of thought and planning has gone into the design and it has meant big changes for how we work and is a massive leap away from a traditional law firm set up. Some of the ideas that have gone into this are:
- Residential feel. As lawyers we work long hours. Some of us spend more time in the office than we do in our own homes. FGD clients come to us often at the most difficult and trying time in their lives. Certus clients seek a confidentiality and professionalism. We wanted the space to be somewhere where people want to be, where they feel comfortable and at home. The architects had an overriding brief to accommodate each of those needs. We think they’ve done a great job at that.
- Communal spaces to bring people together. We wanted to ensure that we are sharing ideas, working together and are cohesive as a team within each firm. The stronger we are as a team, the better we get along, the more we can help our clients and put their needs first. The kitchen and ‘break out’ spaces all work to achieve that goal.
- Having where we work and who we are on display to everyone. From the moment people walk into the space they can see through the kitchen, to the garden and can see where we are and what we do. It’s been done in a way that creates privacy for clients who are visiting us, but still opens us up.
- Lawyers are traditionally in their office, behind their desks and this can often act as a shield and also a barrier between them and their clients. We wanted to bring this barrier down. We wanted the space to reflect the philosophy that our clients and referrers are not external to us, but are the most important part of our firm.
Being paperless means that staff are freed up to be able to move between spaces without having to lug around masses of paper files. Pick up your laptop and you’re good to go. It is simply a necessity for ABW, however, ABW was not our sole impetus in going paperless. Another important factor in the move to paperless was simply that we wanted to drive our practice into the 21st century. We believe that the way that law is practiced in 50 years will be radically different to the way it is done now. Although that seems a long time away in reality change is upon us now. If we want to be the best that we can be as lawyers we need to be ahead of the curve with those changes.
The move to a ‘paperless’ office was not an easy one. To start with we had to scan all of our paper files. It was difficult but with two shifts of people scanning for almost 24 hours a day we managed to get through it. What was even more difficult was changing our work practices for the move to a paperless office. Like any change, there was a period of discomfort in the beginning but we found that as our processes and minds adapted the paperless office was a much more efficient way of operating. We’ve found that having all the information you need for a matter in one single location and being able to easily search and organize that information saves masses of time.
All staff are going to be given a Macbook Air which will be their primary workstation wherever they choose to work. These will be supplemented by 27inch Apple Thunderbolt screens when you need a little more screen space for the task you are doing. For those that do Court work they will be operating primarily off their iPads and Macbooks.
Telephone handsets are gone instead switching to internet calls through Microsoft Lync which enables us to make voice and video calls, instant message within the firm, share screens and collaborate on documents. It means that you can be working at home with full functionality.
Needless to say it’s been a pretty exciting couple of months here at FGD and Certus. We’ve gone through some big changes already and we’re going to be going through more. As always we’re excited about the change and looking forward to the challenges ahead. If you’re interested in coming to check out our new space and the way that we work please feel free to do so!
See you around,
Farrar Gesini Dunn and Certus Law