HWL Ebsworth bucks the trend in designing new Brisbane office accommodation

26 May 2016

Leading independent Australian law firm HWL Ebsworth Lawyers has announced that it has relocated its Brisbane office to the recently constructed state of the art 480 Queen Street building.

The firm has leased three complete floors of the Grocon constructed and Dexus Property Group owned building.

Unlike many other law firms, however, the firm has a deliberate commitment to traditional office layouts rather than any variation of “open plan”.

Other law firms, when deciding to move to an open plan environment, have cited factors such as improved flexibility, information sharing and relationship building. HWL Ebsworth, however, disputes these perceived benefits and instead focuses on the mental wellbeing of its professionals, productivity gains and confidentiality advantages delivered by individual offices. These fundamental matters are considered to be far more important than any marginal per metre cost savings on leases.

Despite the apparent cost effective nature of workstations when compared to physical offices, HWL Ebsworth’s fitout has been reported to be one of more cost effective layouts within the building. By utilising glass walls and doors in the construction of the offices, the layout has ensured an open and light filled environment that provides individual team members with the privacy required to operate at their peak.

Juan Martinez, Managing Partner of HWL Ebsworth, said “The feedback we have received from staff and organisational experts is that the noise and lack of privacy associated with an open plan environment has a materially negative impact on productivity. Legal advice can be extremely complex requiring absolute concentration, and having a third party telephone call occurring two metres away from you can be an unnecessary distraction. You also have the challenge of establishing effective information barriers in open plan offices. We are able to physically separate team members, documents and telephone calls to ensure that no client sensitive information reaches a team member who is not authorised to access that information.”

I cannot understand claims by other firms that open plan accommodation encourages more collaborative behaviour. The degree of collaboration within a firm comes down to the desire of the individuals. If people want to share information with other members of the team, they can simply walk to another office, or call them on their video phones. Sitting someone in a sea of workstations will not lead to improved communication or collaboration if the personal drive and incentive is not there,” added Juan.

One of the first questions that I am being asked by potential lateral recruits is whether we are moving to open plan accommodation. A significant portion of the industry are against it, and it is driving people to reconsider their employment situation,” said Juan. “We are in a position to offer people the privacy they need, in a non-hierarchical environment, while allowing them to deliver greater value to their clients than they have been able to do at their previous firms. We are very happy for other firms to pursue the open plan option, but we have no intention of altering our approach in this regard.”

We have undertaken office layouts in the last three new long term lease commitments in Canberra, Sydney and now Brisbane and will continue in our upcoming renewals in all states,” added Juan.

Note to Editors:

HWL Ebsworth is the largest legal partnership in Australia according to the most recent partnership surveys published by The Australian and the Australian Financial Review.

The firm comprises 1,002 staff including: 198 Partners, 491 other legal staff and 313 support staff across offices in nine locations – Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Norwest (North West Sydney), Perth and Sydney.

HWL Ebsworth is an independent, nationally integrated, full service commercial law firm, providing tailored and commercially oriented legal services.

HWL Ebsworth operates a different business model to the other leading national law practices, and this allows us to offer unrivalled value for money without compromising quality and service. Our low ratio of solicitors to partners ensures that our clients receive optimal access to partner resources for all matters.

For further information, please contact:

Russell Mailler, National Marketing Manager (03) 8644 3569 or rmailler@hwle.com.au.

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