Style as Important to Today’s Office as Physical Dimensions

By 
Emily Kerr
The Daily Record

In the days of “traditional” law firms, senior attorneys had the largest office, the best parking spot and perhaps a slick business suit to match.

As the way we do business shifts with time, the concept of a “corner office” is slowly becoming a thing of the past – and the pandemic may only accelerate those trends, as companies look to reevaluate their relationship with their physical office buildings.

When Senior U.S. Judge Laurie Smith Camp worked for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office years ago, the size of an attorney’s office directly correlated to their importance and position at the firm.

“Some of the attorneys would take measuring tape and measure their offices and other people’s office to make sure they got one that was commensurate with their status or their tenure within the office,” Smith Camp said.

Because of the hierarchy, attorneys couldn’t stand to have someone with less seniority acquiring a larger office space.

However, even though Smith Camp was a section chief at the time, she opted for both the smallest office as well as a “lesser” parking spot – seeking “to make a statement,” she said.

Today, the modern workplace is much more linear, requiring a mindful, collaborative and open aesthetic when it comes to design.

Koenig | Dunne, for example, expanded and remodeled its office to create multiple workspaces that accommodate attorney offices to maintain client confidentiality, while incorporating open workspaces for paralegals and other staff members.

Angela Dunne, managing partner of the firm, said of her own personal space, “I have to confess: This is the biggest office.”

However, “it’s not so much the size that created the sense of seniority, it was how I got to decorate my space,” using light colored furniture, a white desk, and other unique accents that are a far from traditional mahogany and true to her individual personality. “I felt brave for doing that,” Dunne said.

Dvorak Law Group has also been in a growth period, expanding from their initial six attorneys to dozens. Before the firm found their renovated offices on 95th and Dodge streets, it was looking for a place with a great location and the ability to change as the firm continued to grow.

“It was kind of like ‘House Hunters,’” partner David M. Dvorak said of the search for a new office space in a previous interview with The Daily Record.

 The firm has more than 30,000 square feet of space complete with office spaces, cubicles, as well as open meeting spaces and coffee bars around every corner for staff to socialize. These along with other modern design elements have set the firm’s attorneys up for success in their modern workspace.

“When we think of modern, we think technology,” Dunne said.

For her firm, which has a mission to create greater access to justice for her clients., when it comes to building a modern workspace, it’s about finding a way to use that technology to drive profitability and greater ease with billable hours. This is how the firm came to develop UnTie Online, the first service of its kind in Nebraska to offer online divorce services.

Spearheaded by Angela Lennon, UnTie Online is a monthly subscription that allows pro se cases to have, “as much or as little interaction as they need,” with an attorney at the firm, said Dunne.

This system has been tailored specifically to Nebraska law, which makes it incomparable to any other service of its kind. According to Dunne, the service comes with a step by step guide; “it will do all of their documents for them, they don’t have to talk to a lawyer, and if they’re amicable with their spouse, they just get it all done perfectly.”

If a client does come into the office, they are greeted with a warm and safe environment.

“We’re working with clients who are going through divorce, working through bankruptcy. It’s enough to get them in the seat across from me, so that was a top priority,” Dunne said. “The most important aspect from creating the law office from literally the ground up was how we wanted it to feel for both our clients and our employees.”

This way, attorneys can be their authentic selves with clients as well as coworkers. They also implemented remote workspaces to allow the team to work from home as needed.

“With our west Omaha employees, that type of flexibility is becoming more and more important,” Dunne said.

As another measure of keeping staff members comfortable, everyone can choose the type of desk they prefer, whether that be sitting or standing.

The greatest part about modern workplaces is that they are all becoming more tailored to individual preferences and ways of operation. This way, both individual and team success are prioritized to allow for collaboration.

An attorney’s obligations are primarily to their clients, and a modern, productive workspace can therefore provide a better overall client experience.

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