Troutman Sanders has moved its Atlanta headquarters into brand-new, ultra-modern space in Bank of America Plaza. The firm’s leader, Stephen Lewis, and Atlanta managing partner, Pete Robinson, gave the Daily Report a tour.
“This is vastly different from anything we’ve had before,” Robinson said.
“It’s like what our clients have,” Lewis added. “It helps us be more efficient—which benefits them.”
Clients have responded favorably, and the lawyers like it too, they said. “Lawyers are not always into change,” Lewis added.
Troutman moved into the distinctive, pyramid-topped tower at 600 Peachtree St. N.W. when the building opened in 1992, but it has downsized from 14 floors to nine after renewing its lease in 2016. It also relocated from the top of the 55-story building to a stack a bit lower, which meant the firm was able to perform a total overhaul of the space, becoming the first big firm in Atlanta with similar-sized attorney offices for partners and associates.
The streamlined and contemporary aesthetic is a major departure from the previous gracious but formal design. Before, the reception area felt akin to a Southern living room with traditional furnishings, busy accessories, decorative marble columns, and French doors leading to walled-off conference rooms. Now it’s uncluttered and open, with a dramatic black reception counter, sculptural lighting and clean-lined furniture in navy, chocolate and beige.
Troutman has adopted several other current trends in law firm design, opening up the space with sheer glass interior walls on all floors to admit light and skyline views from the perimeter windows, designing common areas that are flexible and multipurpose, and creating a space that is far more collaborative and high-tech.
“We were thinking about flexibility, since we extended the lease to 2030,” said Joseph Geierman, Troutman’s real estate and facilities director. “We don’t know how lawyers are going to practice in five years.”
“We used to be long on space and short on flexibility,” Robinson added.
The designers were initially worried that with so much glass, there would not be enough wall-space for Troutman’s art collection, but Geierman said there was plenty of room, and the collection still feels at home in the new space.
Flexible, With Unique Features
Troutman has added some unique touches of its own.
In the 30th floor reception area, for example, the clear glass walls for the conference rooms lining the perimeter have a continuous band of vertical white lines etched into the glass at eye level. The design repeats on the interior glass walls used throughout the space. It’s a safety feature to keep people from walking into the glass—and turns out to be a bar code spelling out “Troutman Sanders Atlanta.”
The attention to flexibility is evident in the public area. The reception is flanked by a large multipurpose room separated by sliding glass doors. It can hold 485 people for a big event or be divided into two smaller spaces for seminars and trainings, using a retractable divider wall. Long seminar tables, dining tables and other furniture have wheels so they can be easily moved in and out.
A dramatic open black staircase with white marble steps leads to a similar reception area upstairs. A twin multipurpose room, dubbed the Sanders Room in honor of the firm’s founder, Gov. Carl Sanders, flanks a lounge area and conference rooms, ranging from big ones with board tables all the way down to small parlors, along the perimeter wall.
Behind each multipurpose room is a spacious central catering area dominated by a long white stone counter with a sculptural silver chandelier above it. The catering areas, surrounded by smaller conference rooms on the perimeter wall, can be used as service kitchens or opened up to serve food and drink for events.
The new space is fully wired, with a proliferation of flat screens throughout the common areas. There are 13 screens alone in the conference rooms in the two-story reception area. Some allow videoconferencing, and others display documents.
In another unique touch, there is a glass case embedded in a hallway wall outside the Sanders Room filled with memorabilia from Sanders’ old office.
That kind of attention to detail is evident on all the floors. The design team turned historic black-and-white photos recording the building’s construction into wall-sized murals, which they used to enliven practice-floor meeting rooms and the back walls of the interior stairwells between the floors.
Geierman explained that people wanted to use the internal staircases, not just the elevators—but didn’t want to “feel like they were going to get mugged.” So the design team used the murals and some industrial carpet to spruce up the stairwells.
Compact but Spacious
Troutman’s Atlanta headquarters houses 550 people, including about 200 lawyers, 100 other timekeepers and 257 administrative staff. Reflecting how high-tech law firms have become, that includes 76 IT staff, encompassing the records and library services departments.
While the new space is more compact (reduced from 307,000 square feet to 225,000), it feels more open and spacious—and there is still plenty of room for expansion.
Smaller individual workspaces, better organized floor plans, removing the library, centralizing files and other efficiencies created room for a new mock courtroom and a wing for visiting lawyers.
Files previously stored near individual lawyers or practice groups are now in a main records room with compact shelving. While the library is gone, there is still a storage area housing some vestigial books, also on compact shelves.
All of the attorney offices are roughly 150 square feet now, Geierman said, but Bank of America Plaza is configured with lots of corners, producing irregularly-shaped corner offices.
“Some people were worried about the size, but I haven’t gotten any complaints,” he added.
The offices have uniform, modular furniture in a warm shade of brown, which helps maximize the space. That includes adjustable-height desks for everyone—another au courant office design trend.
The interior work areas are light and open now. Cubicle walls were kept low to admit light through the sheer glass interior walls from the offices ringing the perimeter, Geierman said.
The cubicles are slightly smaller—about 6 by 6 feet instead of 6 by 8—but common areas throughout the practice floors add a spacious feel. Long counters with stools allow for collaborative work, and these shared areas can be reconfigured to add more personnel down the road.
In another innovative touch, internal meeting rooms have a whiteboard wall, and the workstation wall in each office is back-painted glass, so people can draw right on the walls. (The IT area seemed to have the most wall notations so far.)
More Face-to-Face and High Tech
The move gave the firm a chance to reorganize seating arrangements and better group lawyers and staff by practice or operations team. The energy and environmental practices used to be on separate floors, for example, but now are right next to each other.
Doug Henderson, an environmental litigator, said he works on energy projects all over the United States, so he likes having the energy lawyers close by for quick consultations.
“While the world is connected by technology, we’ve still got to talk to each other,” Henderson said.
“I’m talking to more people and taking advantage of technology more,” he said, adding that he’s cut down on his paper usage. That said, a few banker boxes of files were visible in his new office.
In one high-tech move, people can swipe smartphones on door locks to access practice floors and other nonpublic areas. “It’s part of us trying to plan for the future,” Geierman said.
They can also use their phones or badges to instantly pay for food in three self-serve cafes among the practice floors. The cafes, which replace vending machines, offer snack foods as well as fresh fruit, salads, yogurt and other healthier items.
“It’s an honor system,” Lewis said, although, he noted, there is also a video camera monitoring the area.
One wall in the main cafe is covered in wallpaper depicting shelves of books. “That’s our little joke,” Lewis said.
Interior Architects designed the space, led by Buzz Riley and Julio Braga. Cushman & Wakefield handled project management, led by Nan Loudon and Brian Alcorn.