The Future of UK Law Firm Office Design

Jun 9, 2023

UK law firms are at a distinct point of change.

We’re witnessing a changing of the guard of sorts, with many law firms embracing newer ways of working.

Law firm office design is no longer all about dark wood and plush carpet. Vibrancy and efficiency are the name of the game, and as we all embrace hybrid as the new norm, it’s time for UK law firms to adapt and adjust their office design and layout to suit a rapidly changing younger generation.

The brightest, youngest talent want to work at places with the best workplace culture, with 90% of young lawyers suggesting that they wouldn’t work at certain firms due to a reputation of poor culture.

This means that many law firms are turning to pay and perks to keep their people happy, however, you can demonstrate your commitment to building a healthy workplace culture in another way: your office design.

A modern law office is vibrant, engaging, comfortable and efficient – a destination for both your people and your clients. Having created an array of quality workplaces for law firms across the country, here’s what Rhino experts believe to be the future of the UK law firm office.

Acoustic & visual privacy

Acoustic and visual privacy is something that is surprisingly lacking in many of the law firm offices we’ve visited over the years. 

From poorly optimised layouts through to rooms that consistently leak sound for all to hear, chances are, there could be significant improvements to be made in your current offices.

Visual privacy

Clients will often feel more secure and will be more open with you in a visually secluded space. 

No matter your specialism, privacy will always be important to your clients. There are two key ways to prioritise visual privacy in your workplace:

  • Carefully plan your office layout – private meeting rooms should be tucked away from the main thoroughfare. This will ensure that the area is both quiet and secluded at all times. 
  • Consider installing switchable or frosted glass, or roller blinds – this provides a little extra privacy for everyone involved.

Acoustic privacy

Audio from speakers travels significantly further and is more pervasive than the spoken word. 

As a result, we’ve seen law workplaces where spaces have been repurposed as video meeting rooms, only to find that the audio travels through the walls and can be heard (quite clearly) by anyone in the vicinity.

For any video conference or other meeting rooms, structural-borne sound needs to be considered. This is usually in the form of a material solution to dampen sound and prevent it from escaping the confines of the room. 

Meeting rooms & office space

Does your current office include extensive 10+ person meeting rooms that are, let’s be honest, very rarely used at capacity?

The historic board room meeting is being replaced with more informal video meetings; it’s unlikely that you need a significant percentage of your total square footage dedicated to large meeting rooms. 

Instead, consider whether collaborative areas would suit your needs better – places for your team to meet, work together, share ideas and, as the name suggests, collaborate. 

Many modern law firms are opting to include sofas and other comfortable seated areas. This can be a much more efficient use of space over the aforementioned large board rooms. 

Collaborative areas encourage natural conversations and take up significantly less space than traditional board rooms.

The need to cascade knowledge

Hybrid working has a lot of benefits, but it does hamper young employee growth. 

For generations, knowledge has been passed down while at the workplace, with experienced practitioners passing on what they’ve learned over the years. 

By creating a space where people want to work, you’re actively encouraging people to come into the office, to enjoy their time there and to work together in a way that benefits all. 

Better space, easier recruitment

Younger people are looking for a comfortable, modern working environment. 

With many people in the industry alluding to the ‘war for talent’, it’s essential that you’re providing a working area that, when people are in, they can be productive and happy.

Simply put, a stuffy, out-of-date workplace isn’t doing you any favours when it comes to recruiting new talent. 

Couple this with the fact that 60% of workers in the law industry (aged 25-34) are ready to walk away from their current job if flexible working isn’t offered. Your workspace needs to facilitate this, with dedicated video conferencing rooms and focus spaces included to help younger people thrive both in the office and at home. 

Focus pods are private spaces perfect for quick calls or quiet working. 

Forward-thinking firms

Law firms, by definition, run in the past. With legal precedent, you have to, however this does not mean that your office space needs to remain antiquated.

If you’re reading this, then chances are you know of a colleague who is a shocking hoarder; someone with mountains of files stored away for a rainy day (often in great piles on their desk).

A modern law office doesn’t necessarily digitise everything or throw out all of their historical data, but instead looks for creative solutions to any ongoing storage issues.

We recommend high-density rolling rack systems, ones that allow you to store significantly more in a substantially smaller space.

This provides two key benefits:

  • Easily store and access documents as and when required, eliminating the need for space hungry filing cabinets.
  • Allow employees to store their things while they’re out of office. This makes it much easier to make non-assigned desking work, which leads us nicely into our next law firm office trend.

An increase in ‘rightsizing’

During the pandemic, we saw many law firms downsizing significantly as they realised that much of their work could be done at home. 

However, downsize too much and you may find yourself crammed into a space that’s far too small for any growth you may experience in the coming years. 

Instead, we prefer using the term ‘rightsizing’. 

Once you’ve rounded up your flock of empty filing cabinets and reassessed your needs around space for meetings and focus activities, you’ll better understand how much space you truly need for your people to thrive. 

This is where the Rhino space calculator shines. We can meticulously work through with your team, identifying exactly how much square footage that you need based on current and future requirements. 

If you’re coming up to a lease break, this can be a fantastic opportunity to find the perfect office space, one that’s the ideal size for your needs. Need help calculating the amount of office space you need? Get in touch with our interior office design team today. Our consultants can help you through the entire process, from initial talks through to selecting the right space and final fit-out. 

The importance of law firm office layout

Your office layout is of the utmost importance, especially as a law firm. 

For some, the reception area may need to be dazzling and effective (especially if you’re working with corporate clients). For others, your priority may be more on your working or meeting areas.

Whatever your preference, it’s a very personal thing to your firm, which is why we recommend talking to the law firm office specialists – our team at Rhino!

Our experience shows that law firms have dramatically differing requirements in what great layout looks like for them. We’ve worked with a broad range of firms, working closely with their stakeholders to understand their brief and create something that goes above and beyond their expectations, helping the space articulate their brand language. 

Whether you’re moving to a new office space, or reimagining your existing one, there’s no need to go it alone. Talk to our team today for advice tailored to your unique circumstances. 

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