Space Matrix gave the traditional law firm office design an update.

Evolving traditions: Adding modern appeal to RHTLaw Asia’s Singapore office design

Evolving traditions: Adding modern appeal to RHTLaw Asia’s Singapore office

Dark panelled private cabins, heavy oak furniture, walls lined with leather-bound books — this is the prevailing idea that most people have of law offices. Indeed, given that the nature of work tends to be private and confidential, most conventional law offices do actually operate out of traditional, closed spaces. However, this conventional notion of legal practice is fast evolving, and RHTLaw Asia is one of the firms leading this change.

We recently had the opportunity to help the firm interpret their modern take on legal practice through their office design. RHTLaw Asia and RHT Group of Companies earlier had their workforce spread across two different offices in Singapore. As they expanded, the company decided to move to a new space altogether — a space that would allow them to bring all their different teams and functions under one roof.

The Challenge:

When RHTLaw Asia reached out to us to help them design and conceptualise this new space, the requirements were very clear. We needed to create a vibrant space that would challenge the traditional ideas of legal practice. The workplace had to wow their sophisticated clientele, but equally importantly, it had to help attract and retain the new wave of legal talent.

Young lawyers today look for variety and dynamism in their work life — they develop business interests to explore diverse verticals spanning from finance and consultancy to academic training. So they prefer varied work environments that enable them to collaborate, share knowledge and nurture these interests. This new RHTLaw Asia office had to cater to these evolving work styles.

Our solution:

1. Open and transparent design

Since records and documentation are an important part of the business, law offices typically devote a lot of space to storage. When moving to their new workspace however, RHTLaw Asia decided to shift their document storage to an offsite location. This freed up more space for us to experiment with the interior design, and create a workplace that is truly unique.

Developing multi-use spaces was part of the workplace strategy for RHTLaw Asia

In stark contrast to closed and impersonal law office designs, the new RHTLaw Asia workspace is striking with its openness and transparency. The office has wall-to-wall glazed windows on three sides, which bathes the space in natural sunlight and immediately gives it an open, airy feel. Rather than cubicles, we went for a semi-open layout for the main work area. Employees sit at long tables placed next to the windows. This allows them to enjoy the sunlight and the panoramic views as they work efficiently alongside their colleagues. Rather than closing off the individual offices with solid walls and heavy shelves, we went for glass walls to carry forward this culture of transparency and accessibility.

2. Focus on friendly collaboration

Another way in which the RHTLaw Asia office stands out is with its collaborative approach. Usually, law offices tend to be geared more towards individual productivity. However, work styles have evolved and teams today work more in tandem with each other than ever before. So just having individual workstations would no longer have sufficed.

We thus ensured that there were ample spaces for formal and casual collaboration. The work areas are interspersed with informal breakaway spaces and cosy seating clusters where colleagues can catch up and work together. Comfortable accent chairs, bright pouffes and colourful artwork give these spaces a cheerful, laid-back vibe.

The office cafeteria at RHTLaw Asia doubles up as a workspace too

We devoted special attention to building out a stunning staff café. Located along one edge of the office perimeter, this space affords gorgeous sunlit views. We have a variety of seating options here with bar stools and café-like seating clusters, so employees can be comfortable as they relax, enjoy a meal or host client lunches. Most importantly, the café is equipped with a projector and screen and has WiFi connectivity, making it the perfect alternative spot to work from. Though this café can accommodate up to 50 people to begin with, it is designed to be flexible. The boardroom is equipped with an HDTV screen and sits right next to it, with an operable wall separating the two spaces. This makes it ideal for bigger events — when the firm hosts conferences and training sessions, the wall can be opened up to accommodate larger groups.

3. Security

This is a profession where security cannot be compromised — so despite the open look and feel, the office needed to be designed in a way that would help keep sensitive information protected. The space is fitted with state-of-the-art digital security systems that only grant access to authorised personnel. This also indicates that visitors and guests need to be accompanied by registered employees within the office space.

Digital collaboration and information privacy are both enabled in this modern office design

In the common work areas, the long tables are outfitted with half-height partitions or strategic planters to keep monitors and screens hidden from the view of anyone passing by. Of course, the boardroom and formal meeting rooms are fitted with acoustic panels to ensure that private client meetings are not overheard. Similarly, the senior partners’ offices are acoustically protected too, and the glass-fronted cabins have frosted stickers to afford privacy without taking away from the openness of the design.

We can design a workplace strategy to help you stay ahead of the changing norms of your industry too. Talk to us.