Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Building Environments of Collaboration, Curiosity, Creativity in Law Firms

The traditional law firm of 30 years ago was book intensive with a large space contributed to accommodate all those volumes.  It was also an area where lawyers would have serendipitous encounters that sparked case discussions and produced fertile collaboration.  

That model is dead in the digitized age of online research libraries.  Failure to recreate collaborative physical spaces can be disastrous for law firms.  The smart firms are pulling attorneys out of the isolation of their offices where they otherwise would be stuck to their computers.  While virtual interaction could still take place, the best creativity most often occurs face to face.  Architects and space planners can make that happen, if the firm makes that approach a priority.  

Centralized common areas that make spontaneous interactions are built into the floor plan.  Comfortable lounges reduce the rigid, linear thinking of the spartan enclosed office. I think law firms would be wise to use the free flowing, creative brainstorming sessions of the organizations they represent, especially high tech firms that depend on creative talent and innovation for success.  Leaving creativity solely to chance encounters in common spaces may not be enough to produce the best thinking and strategy.  A hospitable space creates an opportunity, but formalizing collaboration sessions causes the opportunity to be seized.  

Finally, the best thinking in an organization takes place when the participants value creativity, collaboration and curiosity.  If those attitudes are practiced by top management, the whole environment can come alive.