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Re-Designing Law for an Uncertain Future

Is this what a legal office of the future could look like? Image © Gensler

As one of the leaders of the law firm practice here at Gensler, I spend a lot of time considering the future of law, and what how law firm design can and should support the way firms and legal industry professionals will work five, 10, even 20 years from now. Given that the industry is undergoing profound changes with new business pressures pushing in from all sides, it is challenging to plan for a future that is largely unwritten. For a quick primer on the business drivers impacting the legal industry today, check this out.

Video © Gensler

It’s good to know I’m not the only one thinking about the future of the legal industry. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion to a room of 500 members of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) last week at the organization’s annual convention in Toronto. The topic that drew a packed house? The Legal Office of the Future. I was joined by distinguished panelists from top law firms for a discussion ranging from Millennials in the workforce and new frontiers in workplace design, to the predominance of mobile technology in the workplace, cyber security and the game-changing role of predictive technology for law firm strategy. The emergence of skee ball lanes and coffee bars in legal offices even got a shout out.

Image © Gensler

Our panelists were an honest group, and we dug deep for their considered expertise. What keeps them up at night? One recalled the words of Wayne Gretsky “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” He added, “We don’t know where the puck is going to be, but we’re trying.” Another mused that the legal industry “moves at the speed of precedent, and we are afraid we are not staying ahead of the curve.” Their best guesses: more open plan offices, more research and strategic planning driven by big data analysis, paperless offices, more social and collaboration spaces to encourage younger employees to socialize.

Image © Gensler

In concert with our panel discussion, Gensler designed the exhibition “ReDesign Law: The Legal Office of the Future” on the show floor at the ALA convention. The 5,000 sq foot space, and its companion website, was designed to showcase key elements of the law firm of the future, including space design and technology solutions across a range of small vignettes occupying the space. Open office layouts, telepresence and conference rooms featuring mobile technologies on touch screens of all sizes, and new furniture prototypes were all on display. In addition to the interactive vignettes, we created videos illustrateding myriad issues facing the legal industry, potential responses to those issues, and space concepts for the legal office of the future.

Image © Gensler

With a packed house for our panel discussion and over 650 visitors touring the exhibition over two days, there is no doubt the law firm of the future is one of the most critical topics facing the legal industry today.

Image © Gensler

Doug Zucker is a principal in Gensler's San Francisco office and has extensive experience helping law firms and other professional services firms solve their workplace problems. Contact him at doug_zucker@gensler.com.

Reader Comments (1)

Great discussion and summary, Doug. I wish I could have been there.
06.6.2014 | Unregistered CommenterHam

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