Meredith Connell’s Auckland transformation was the result of extensive reviews and workshops – not a process that was undertaken lightly.
Before designing our space Meredith Connell undertook a workplace review run by Warren and Mahoney. This entailed a series of workshops, interviews with a selection of staff, a survey with everyone in the firm and an architectural intern observing how we used our space.
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The findings from this informed what we wanted to achieve with out fit out.
The most significant of these were;
- IT and mobility solution – Technology development has become a much more significant element in office design. The design and investment in technology means you can work anywhere and have your ‘desktop’ with you.
- Access to partners – The need for a feeling of contact and collegiality was also vital. “The feedback from our solicitors was that they wanted better access to seniors, in particular partners. We now have complete open plan – there are no offices – with the partners sitting in the middle of their teams. Everyone has the same desk from the intern to the Managing Partner. This has improved communication, means better on the job training and a faster response to clients,” says Kylie Mooney, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer.
- Collaboration Rooms – Having different places to work depending on the activity in which lawyers were engaged was also a key factor in driving the design of the new offices. “We have 29 collaboration rooms which are designed for people to work in by themselves or with others. You can project wirelessly to a screen or using your wireless headset, take calls in the office. We also have library with seating for 15 people.
This room has the highest possible acoustic rating for when you don’t want to be disturbed. We have large bar leaners for each team for impromptu team meetings. People respect that when you are working in a collaboration room or the library that you want to be left alone to get on with what you are doing.
- Being Connected – The need for staff to feel connected, particularly given the large floor plate of 3500m2 was key. There are few solid walls with plenty of glass and visibility throughout the floor, as well as a centralised kitchen.
As with any project of this kind, there are always surprises, particularly given the fact that the firm had not undertaken such a project before. Depending upon good project management, in this case The Intelligent Building Company and Twenty Two, was key to derive appropriate support.
The effect of technology
Meredith Connell spent a lot of time working out the appropriate IT solution to fit the new space, making most changes six months prior to the move so the process was more seamless.
The focus, as with most new law office designs is upon having a robust mobile solution with the ability to work anywhere.
“We have adopted wireless options as much as possible and the IT had to be easy to use. At the click of three buttons we can project our laptops, wirelessly, to screens in meeting rooms,” says Kylie Mooney.
The overall result has been highly successful with a “high proportion” of staff being very positive about what has been done.
An AUT research study on the project including such positives as easier access for seniors, faster feedback on work and the connectiveness within the firm.
We have been able to have a building and fit out that reflects our culture and we are proud of where we work
CEO Kylie Mooney notes that one of the key factors in doing what they did was to surround themselves with experts who you know and trust.
“The other thing I would do again is make sure you over communicate – tell everyone what is going on and why. This made the change to work practices and the being in a new part of the CBD much easier for us when we moved.”
She notes that the changes made by the firm have been entirely positive in terms of not only the physical layout, but also being on one floor has also helped alter the culture of the firm.
“I expected there would be a ‘honeymoon’ period when we moved in and then the pleasure and benefits of working in the space would subside. That hasn’t been the case.”
The change in what many think of as the law firm has other, perhaps unexpected benefits too, such as hiring.
Since Meredith Connell made their move they have also found it easier to hire staff, particularly for non-legal roles.
Many non-lawyers have been impressed with the fact that the firm does not look like the stereotypical image of the law firm.
“The days of mahogany and pin stripes are thankfully behind us,” Kylie Mooney says.
“I have seen MC staff showing their spouses, parents and even grandparents around the building.
“We have had a large number of organisations come for site tours and as an example of best practice which has been great for brand awareness. I think most are surprised a law firm could be leading the charge in best practice fit outs.”