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Law firms trim budgets, not style.

Law firms today expect their offices to look much the way clients expect their lawyers to look -- solid, stable, dignified, intelligent yet imaginative. The office space law firms seek must satisfy their guest for both image enhancement and the bottom line. An attractive, stylish office can be a valuable tool in wooing and keeping clients as well as qualified attorneys. Some law firms are still uncomfortable with viewing their profession in terms of marketing terms -- however, it has never been more important than in today's competitive climate.

Designing a law firm's offices requires reading the culture of the firm. Is the goal to look old-line, conservative and traditional? Does the firm have many clients in the entertainment or advertising industries, and welcome a dash of pizazz? Are antiques an essential part of the decor, or are furnishings modern and functional? Flamboyance and arty design are generally eschewed in law office design. Exceptions are when the firm's clients are film or recording artists.

The days are gone when a Park Avenue address was all a law firm needed to connote success. Today, law firms are just as likely to be located on Eighth Avenue, Third Avenue and other venues unheard-of just a decade ago. The once impenetrable West Side barrier of Avenue of the Americas was broken by Lord Day & Lloyd Barrett Smith when it moved to Broadway and 52nd Street a few years ago.

SCR Design notes that as the 1990's have trimmed budgets and staffs, law firms have scaled back plans and expectations for their offices in the following ways. Smaller partners' offices, less opulence, and more concern with technology are in demand. Computer rooms are essential, and law libraries have dwindled in importance since most information law firms need is available on computer networks such as Lexis, Westlaw and other services. Twenty-four-hour air conditioning and heating are crucial due to heavy overtime hours by law firms. More emphasis is also placed on secretarial areas, as larger work surface areas are built, overhead areas are used for books, laser printers are. shared between secretaries, and ambient lighting is used for a more comfortable and pleasant working environment.

For law firm Hall Dickler Lawler Kent & Friedman's new offices in 40,000 square feet at 909 Third Avenue, SCR Design's goal was to design tasteful, traditional offices consistent with the firm's long history within a reasonable budget. Bird's eye maple was used in the reception area and secretarial stations, a material which is elegant and timeless yet not showy. Smoked glass called clearstory was used for the top part of wails, which admits light, provides visual interest, and breaks up the solid line of a sheetrock wall.

The elevator lobby for the firm, whose specialties include advertising, marketing, securities, tax, international, and real estate law, echoes the use of maple, cove lighting and custom carpeting used throughout the offices for a, harmonious, elegant look. The secretaries' work stations were custom-designed to provide personnel with adequate space for all the filing, communication equipment, computer terminals, and printers. The lighting in these areas is ambient lit to avoid eye fatigue and surface glare on the Mac computer screen.

Like Hall Dickler, many law firms have realized moves to newer office buildings can make sound economic sense, since the space can be built to suit, and full floors, large space, and sophisticated telecommunications and HVAC systems can be found here.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Architecture & Interior Design; office designs for law firms requires learning the culture of the firms
Author:Romm, Richard A.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Dec 16, 1992
Words:566
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