Office Space: Smaller is better at McCarthy Tétrault’s new Vancouver digs

When McCarthy Tétrault moved to a new office, the law firm changed not just where but it worked

Credit: Courtesy of McCarthy Tétrault

In Passing | The central staircase is narrower by design to encourage users to interact

“The legal profession is changing so quickly,” says Matthew Peters, national innovation leader at McCarthy Tétrault. “The profession is going to look very different 10 to 20 years from now. We can’t, like the old days, design and assume that the same space is going to work and be used the same way.”

Credit: Courtesy of McCarthy Tétrault

In Your Corner | Sightly different furniture makes the collaboration corners “like little neighbourhoods,”  says innovation leader Matthew Peters

Moving its Vancouver office allowed the firm to become more efficient, flexible, transparent and connected. The new 60,000-square-foot space on floors 22 to 24 at Thurlow and Alberni streets is 30 per cent smaller than the previous one at Dunsmuir and Howe, but it still accommodates 83 lawyers and 117 support staff.

Credit: Courtesy of McCarthy Tétrault

Flex Space | The glass offices aren’t attached to the floor, so it’s easy to disassemble and move them

The lawyers have glass-walled offices with sliding doors. “We think that lawyers need some level of concentrated study,” says Peters, “so people can close the doors, work away, have quiet if they need to but feel they’re very much part of the space when you open up the corner doors.” Collaborative areas with a variety of seating and tables are next to the windows. “If you want to set up a laptop and headset, you can go find a spot that works best for you,” Peters explains.

Credit: Courtesy of McCarthy Tétrault

Café Culture | In the lounge, staff can get together, grab a private space or catch the game on TV

Admin support (IT, HR, marketing) are on the top floor along with conference rooms for client meetings, mostly glass-walled but some closed off for confidentiality reasons. Buffet lunches, breakfasts and afternoon snacks are served at a central counter so people can socialize over food. “One of the whole design elements was connecting people,” Peters says. The central staircase is narrower by design—ensuring that people don’t pass without looking each other in the eye. “If you have too wide a staircase you can be in your own little space, but here the whole idea is you interact.”

Credit: Courtesy of McCarthy Tétrault

Knowledge Centre | Designed for a range of work styles, the library has booths at the back, plus tables and benches

Unlike a traditional office, it’s easy to see who’s in and connect with them. “You’ll bump into people a lot more, which is the good part because what we deliver are services that result from bouncing ideas off each other,” Peters notes. “Getting to the best ideas is really a matter of collaborating, and this space allows us to do it.”