In an effort to break down the traditional hierarchy of the “legal fraternity”, Victoria Legal Aid has embraced a modern open-plan office and adopted activity-based working at its new Melbourne address. 

Architecture and design practice Gray Puksand partnered with fitout and refurbishment company Shape to complete the design and construction of the 8,751sqm office across three floors at 570 Bourke Street.

“We wanted to give staff the flexibility to step away from their desks during sensitive calls, and opportunities to connect with colleagues with different skills who they may not see but could help them to better help our clients,” says Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) managing director Bevan Warner.

“It was also important to create an environment that is warm but professional for our staff working in the high pressure environment of the justice system every day.”

The new open-plan office has been designed to offer a more welcoming environment to both clients and staff by replacing the imposing walled offices and intimidating corridors with vibrant café-style spaces, collaborative work areas, quiet zones and meeting “cubbies” and booths. 

More formal meeting rooms were also an essential part of the design for when client confidentiality and privacy is required. 

VLA hopes its new work environment will create a more social workplace culture and overturn the traditional hierarchy of the legal fraternity by literally breaking down the walls.

“Australia is leading the world in its willingness to radically alter the traditions of the legal fraternity and transition to open plan offices where transparency is balanced by sensitivity,” says Shape Australia CEO Peter Marix-Evans.

The office was also built as part of the Charter Hall portfolio, with all the latest sustainability and technological innovations with the aim of securing a 4.5-star NABERS energy rating.