The Gibbons firm unveiled its new headquarters last week: four and a half floors of economy-sized offices and function-specific public areas all designed to put on display a core value: frugality.
“The partner-sized office with the big oak desk was fine in the old days, but going forward, we wanted to transmit a message that the use of space has an impact on the rates,” says Patrick Dunican Jr., managing director of the Newark firm.
The theme is evident throughout the new plant at One Gateway Center, which was gutted out and redesigned over the course of nine months. The firm settled in on Feb. 13, moving from the Legal Center, its home for the past 17 years.
By trimming office space and other moves, the firm is fitting in 180 lawyers in 103,000 square feet, compared with 140 lawyers in 93,000 square feet before.
Associates’ offices are 140 square feet, and even partners’ corner offices are downsized. A wall projecting at a 45-degree angle carves each corner into two wedge-shaped partner offices. At 168 square feet, each provides just enough space for three people to hold a meeting.
Some lawyers will double up. Associates who joined the firm in 2004 or later are seated two to an office, while those more senior have their own space.
The firm’s library has been scaled down to eliminate print resources now available online, saving both floor space and book-purchase costs. For example, by scrapping federal and state case reporters, the firm cut its library from 12,000 volumes to 7,500. (Some lawyers resisted that move, and one lawyer took home some old law books to create a personal collection, says Dunican.) The firm also struck a deal to use the library at nearby Seton Hall University School of Law.
The firm also saved on space by doing away with separate file rooms, in favor of built-in filing cabinets along hallways.
While trimming those traditional space huggers, the firm has provided more room for collaborative activity, such as trial preparation, meetings and socializing.
The plan was designed to promote a more collaborative work style and higher morale as well as position the firm as a regional leader whose rates are not unreasonable.
Space is allotted more generously than before to conference centers, trial preparation rooms, a moot court room, spaces designed for informal lawyer meetings, and pantries and lunch rooms.
The firm’s first-ever attorney lounge includes a view of the New York City skyline and features plasma televisions, a counter and stools, a kitchen stocked with bottled water, and coffee service.
“As firms continue to raise associates’ pay, we’re competitive, but we want to offer them something else,” Dunican says.
The 17th through 20th floors, where lawyers’ offices are arranged by practice group, are equipped with conference rooms, trial preparation rooms and rooms with theater-style seating that can be reconfigured for a formal classroom setting or a less-structured brainstorming session. The third floor houses the records management and conflicts department, accounting, the copy room and the mailroom.
The 21st floor includes 15 conference rooms, a multipurpose room for meetings or luncheons and a new moot courtroom. Whereas lawyers preparing for trial previously would have held simulated hearings in a conference room, the new courtroom has a separate jury room and a video system that will allow analysis of the lawyers’ performance.
The centerpiece is the reception area, on the 21st floor, with white marble floors, dark maple woodwork and brown contemporary leather couches. A wide bank of windows affords a panoramic view of Newark Liberty International Airport, while plasma-screen monitors on the walls play a firm promotional video.
And, at the office building’s top-floor outer fa�ade, signs bearing the Gibbons name are slated to go up in mid-March.
Because the firm’s move coincides with its decision to shorten its name to Gibbons (from Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione), the firm sought to provide continuity by commissioning portraits to honor longtime name partners Ralph Del Deo, John Dolan, Michael Griffinger and Frank Vecchione.
The law library was named after Andrew Crummy, a name partner until another name-shortening in the 1980s. The attorney lounge was christened for Dolan. Meeting rooms were named for Del Deo, Griffinger and Vecchione. The moot courtroom is named for partner John Gibbons, former chief judge of the U.S. Third Circuit.