A new design trend is taking route through Australia’s legal workplaces and redefining spaces for clients and law firm interaction.

The model for this change is international law firm Herbert Smith Freehill’s Sydney office, which recently received a complete overhaul from BVN Donovan Hill and has since become reference in design circles for its unique spin on legal workplace design.

Until recently, welcoming clients into legal offices was an unheard practice, says Peter Dunne from Herbert Smith Freehills, with offices in Sydney.

“We moved away from the traditional model of the client reception on just one floor to actually embed the client experience when they came to the building to the middle of the tenancy,” explains Dunne.

To avoid being seen “as aloof,” Dunne suggests that he wanted clients to see the building as a working space and maintains the result is “an incredible selling point for clients to come in and just see the activity.”

This vision was realised by BVN Donovan Hill, and is expected by the firm to guide other legal workplaces as they rethink their office floor plans to incorporate more client friendly spaces, and showcase their business activity rather than hide it behind cubicles.

In the latest issue of ‘Transformative: the architecture of work culture,’ a digital publication by BVN Donavon Hill devoted to reporting innovations in workplace design, interviews and discussions centre on this change in law firm workplace floor planning.

The Herbert Smith Freehills Law Firm redesign is a topic for discussion in the latest edition of Transformative. Image: BVN Donovan Hill

In one video, the viewer joins BVN principals Ninotschka Titchkosky and Bill Dowzer as they discuss their redesign of the Herbert Smith Freehills office, and how it subverts the traditional models of legal workplace design.

Titchkosky explains how the traditional office was replaced by a demountable frame and wall systems so closed offices could be moved without going into an entirely open plan.

“Up until this point most of the legal environments had the traditional thing of offices around the edge of perimeter and then around the edge of the core and then maybe the legal sectary in the corridors. This [project] was about exploring the idea of moving completely away from that.”

“We started to look at clusters for the different teams, almost like the idea of cul de sacs, where you can have a series of lawyers working around a collaborative space,” said Dowzer.

Image: BVN Donovan Hill

The third issue of Transformative specifically explores the concepts of legal workplace designs and emphasises the innovation behind creating a balance between open and closed floor plans through flexible wall and sectioning features.

“We wanted a hybrid model, so there are offices and work spaces,” said Dunne.

“One thing we were very concerned about is the idea about open plan where you see the battery-end type notion and I think the design fundamentally addresses that.”

Transformative: edition three also includes monologues from Dunne, Davil Wilkie from Allen and Overy, and Dr Donna Wheatley.


Visit bvntransformative.com for the full online publication.