October 10, 2017
You might have more My Cousin Vinny in you than you realize… at least when it comes to your law firm office.
Who can forget the classic image of Joe Pesci bursting into his motel bedroom with a bankers box and a stack of file folders between his hands?
It’s his makeshift law office, shoehorned in a motel room where his stay has lasted nearly as long as his six-week career. And now he’s handling a murder trial on his own. Classic comedy.
If we’re being honest, whether you’re considerably more seasoned than Mr. Vinny Gambini or every bit as tenderfoot, your office might look… uncomfortably similar.
Even veteran and successful attorneys clutter their offices with crumbling bankers boxes, faded manila folders, and creaky filing cabinets.
It’s not a good look. Not for you, not for your clients, and not for your firm.
The truth is that your law firm office has a direct impact on:
Today, we’re going to look at the subtle ways your work environment can affect you as a legal practitioner, prescribe some simple steps for sprucing the space up, and we’ll even share some real-life examples of law firms that turned their practices into paradises.
Not to sound paranoid, but people are always judging you. They don’t mean to, and they aren’t being nasty about it, but on some basic human level, we’re all constantly making judgments about the people we encounter and our experiences with them.
As an attorney, your prospective clients start judging you at first contact:
Everything they see matters. How professional are you? How successful are you? Are you a power player or are you in over your head?
Your office’s appearance can answer those questions before they’re even asked. And here’s the thing you have to remember: people don’t stop judging you when they leave your lobby.
Too often, law firms expend all their Martha Stewart energy in the waiting room, while the attorneys’ individual offices are left to gather dust until they look like the haunted remains of a long-shuttered library.
When a new or prospective client sets foot inside your law firm office, everything about the space should project competence, confidence, professionalism, and success. They’re looking to hire a winner. Your office should look like a winner works there.
Believe it or not, you can internalize your own surroundings to the point that they influence how you see yourself.
So it isn’t just your clients’ judgments you have to be mindful of. Your own self-judgments matter too, even if they’re subconscious.
It’s the old “dress for success” theory: he who wears the clothes of a successful person is more likely to become a successful person. It’s psychological, sure, but there’s something to be said for the placebo effect of aesthetics.
Dress your office for success too. Make it neat, tidy, orderly, and inspiring. Add artful touches. Consider natural light, plants, or even a fountain with running water – anything to inspire you toward productivity.
The golden rule of law firm interior design is to create a space that makes you want to be productive and effective.
Imagine you’re checking into a four-star resort for a weeklong vacation and the manager offers you a tour of the available room types. There’s a five-room suite with an ocean view, a cozy cottage with a bubbling creek, and a plain white-walled closet with a twin bed and no windows.
You probably wouldn’t take a second look behind Door #3. But that’s the choice most attorneys make when it comes to their work space.
Look, lawyers log a lot of hours. It’s not unreasonable to think that your law firm office is one of the top three rooms where you’ll spend the majority of your waking hours for many years to come.
Don’t you deserve to spend it in a space that gratifies you?
Studies consistently show that your work environment can affect your mood, self-esteem, productivity, and overall happiness levels — even when you aren’t at work!
Make your law firm office a place you enjoy spending time in… a home away from home!
1. From “Law-brary” to “Lounge-brary.” Law books are a must, but who says comfort and card catalogs are mutually exclusive? The ABA recommends arranging plush sofas and chairs next to bookshelves so as to offset that imposing library look.
2. Break Out the Color Wheel. If you play it safe with your wardrobe (black suits all day, every day!), you might do the same inside. But complementary colors can go a long way in soothing the soul. It’s the little things! So if you haven’t looked at a color wheel in a while, now’s the time.
This one comes from the ABA too:
3. Embrace Your Inner Artist. Never underestimate the power of an accent piece. The folks over at Legaler highlighted this California firm for their bold art installations and overall “luxury hotel” aesthetic.
4. No One Writes a Compelling Complaint Like Gaston. Prefer to think outside the box? When everyone else zigs (read: goes modern and chic), why not zag (read: turn your firm into a mountain lodge)? For inspiration, look no further than this Savannah mansion-turned-law firm, complete with an unexpectedly gorgeous office for one of the partners.
How’d you like to work there every day? The people at Legaler were impressed, and so are we!
5. “Office? What Do You Mean by… Office?” Break down the walls and open up communication! This London law firm, profiled over on Legal Cheek, opted for a bright, borderless working space.
6. Talk About Passing the Bar… This one’s technically a common area upgrade, but we couldn’t resist telling you about a U.K. firm that converted its waiting room into a high-tech espresso & sushi bar. How many of your competitors can offer that?
Learn more about it at Legal Cheek.
7. Work on Cases and Your Fitness. 1-800-LAW-FIRM (not so much a traditional firm as a national network of experts and advisors) installed running tracks throughout their office, where they have “walking meetings.” (Aaron Sorkin would be proud!) There’s an exercise room too. That might be excessive by most firm’s standards, but there’s something to be said for good health and a positive life-work balance. Maybe there’s a place for a treadmill next to your desk?
Fun fact: 1-800-LAW-FIRM took top honors in Above the Law’s “Best Law Firm Office in America” contest.
8. You’re a Superhero. Own it. Attorneys do important work. You fight for justice. So does Batman. So why wouldn’t he be all over your office? That was the rationale at Fish & Richardson in Dallas, apparently, and you know what? We love it. (Above the Law’s readers did too.)
The eight gorgeous law firm photos we just shared are enough to make your jaw drop, but they can also make your wallet ache. Those firms likely worked with expert interior design agencies, some of which specialize in law office design.
If that simply isn’t within your fiscal reach, you can still take small steps to add life to your law firm. Here are some the trends building buzz in the industry right now:
If a lovely law office can life your spirits and impress your clientele, shouldn’t your law firm’s website look nice too?
Of course, great attorney web design is about a lot more than appearance. Websites need to attract traffic, make the case for choosing your firm, comply with the state bar’s ethics rules, and — most importantly — get you bigger and better cases.
That’s what we do at Black Fin. We design highly effective, fast-loading, and gorgeous-looking attorney websites, all geared to one goal: growing your practice. And if we don’t succeed, we won’t ask you to keep using us, because we never lock clients into long-term contracts.
Contact the legal marketing experts at Black Fin today.