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Out in the open, that open office plans probably find little favor from law department lawyers

A while back, I wrote a few posts about open-office plans (See my post of Sept. 16, 2008: physical layout of offices; and Sept. 30, 2009: hallways, conference rooms etc. of legal departments.). That movement, I sense, has gone nowhere in legal departments.

Lawyers don’t like to work in exposed cubicles. To be in the public eye and ear at all times disconcerts lawyers, and for that matter probably every member of the law department. Instead, however, the traditional single-person, isolated office, with doors often closed, creates little opportunity for casual, unplanned interchange.

Even more radical in terms of office design, I doubt there is a law department in the US that has modular office spaces, “with walls that can be easily reconfigured to match the needs of the employees.” The quote comes from Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation (Riverhead 2010) at 64, and Johnson goes on to mention an MIT building and a new one at Microsoft that embody these ideas, including walls that are “write-on/wipe-off” so inspired people can sketch ideas on the fly.