Exploring the Workplace of a Modern Law Firm

LPA recently volunteered its design services to the Santa Ana, California-based Public Law Center to examine different ways workplace design could improve the non-profit firm’s efficiency and operations, and better connect the agency with the community.

The Public Law Center is a non-profit organization that has provided legal services to Orange County’s low-income residents and nonprofits since 1981. With more than 2,000 lawyers working on thousands of cases each year, the firm was outgrowing its current downtown Santa Ana site.

LPA was asked to design a new building that would facilitate a high volume of meetings, create spaces for private conversations, increase efficiency and improve the workplace experience for the firm’s volunteers and clients.

“Together we envisioned a new facility that would centralize and accommodate the firm’s operations into a single location,” LPA Design Director of Commercial, Keith Hempel says.

LPA designers worked with the public law center staff to dissect how they work in relation to the firm’s larger goals.

“LPA listened to what we wanted out of our workplace and articulated our vision back to us with such understanding and expertise,” says Ken Babcock, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Public Law Center. “They also helped us drill down actual costs and determine what was viable in our current situation.”

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The designers created a three-story building with two levels of office and one level of parking on PLC’s existing urban site. The design lifts the building off the ground to maximize parking at ground floor. A roof deck serves as a collaborative meeting space as well as a fresh air respite area for employees and volunteers. In contrast to the existing labyrinth of private offices and conference rooms, LPA opened the space to help create an employee-friendly environment.

LPA presented three floor plan options with meeting rooms, multiple private offices, open office workstations, training rooms and ample parking for the downtown location. The designs provided transparency, safety and a welcoming attitude towards legal representation. Working with DPR Construction, LPA also provided a breakdown of costs to execute the plans, which was critical for the Public Law Center’s Board of Directors’ decision making.

Ultimately, presented with the options, the Public Law Center decided to delay the new building concept, but hired LPA to instead design tenant improvements for a new leased space.“We now have a much better idea of what it would cost and what it would look like to lease a new space and build it out,” Babcock says.

“The ground up construction is something that we’re keeping in the back of our minds as something we might do someday.”