Why open plan law firms work

by Miklos Bolza21 Mar 2016
Over the weekend, Meredith Connell, New Zealand’s largest litigation firm, became “the first completely open plan national law firm” in the country.
NZ Lawyer asked Steve Hazard, Managing Partner at Meredith Connell, why the firm had chosen to give up the traditional office design and move into this more contemporary setting.
“The open plan premises allow Meredith Connell’s team to work more collaboratively and share experiences better, rather than being silo-ed on different floors and in offices,” he said.
This is on top of added benefits such as more natural light and better views for staff, plus the fact that the whole plan had been designed to be much more flexible, he added.
“We’ve invested in our technology so all staff are fully networked and mobile which suits our lawyers who are often in court or out meeting with our clients where they do business.”

The office design, while being open plan, has also been tailored for additional privacy concerns, Hazard pointed out.
“While staff work in a fully open plan environment, the floor has 29 collaboration rooms, a specially designed library, and five meeting rooms that are fully networked and have high levels of acoustic treatment.”
The use of technology such as wireless headsets for all landlines allows lawyers to take calls from clients where absolute privacy is still required.
When asked whether an open plan office design was suitable for all law firms, Hazard replied that it depended on the lawyer and their firm.
“Someone who has been hunched over a desk for a decade just to get a corner office may not think it’s suitable,” he said. “And for that kind of culture it’s probably not.”
“Open plan and shared space is absolutely suitable for a firm like Meredith Connell that has a strong team culture and a sense of collaboration.”
This quality is embodied in the fact that employees were heavily involved in the firm’s relocation, he added, as they helped with everything from choosing wallpaper to setting ground rules for how to share space.