Spaces: Collaborative team inspires design to match

Chapman Spingola’s office in the Loop features floor-to-ceiling arches — a postmodern-style architectural feature the firm plans to incorporate into a new logo. - Rena Naltsas
Chapman Spingola’s office in the Loop features floor-to-ceiling arches — a postmodern-style architectural feature the firm plans to incorporate into a new logo. —Photo by Rena Naltsas
By Dustin J. Seibert
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

Note: A correction was made to clarify the phrasing of "client" and "collaboration" in the first and fifth paragraphs of this story. An update was also made in the second and 13th paragraphs to the location of Chapman Spingola. The firm's office space is located on the 38th floor, not the 39th.

If there’s a word that’s only slightly less important than “client” in the halls of Chapman Spingola, it’s “collaboration.”

The entire layout of the firm’s relatively new office space on the 38th floor of 190 S. LaSalle St. is aimed at maintaining the firm’s enduring culture of collaboration. It’s evident in details big and small — from corner offices as collaborative spaces in lieu of partner offices to frosted glass where there would conventionally be drywall.

Robert Chapman, the firm’s co-founder, says the partners’ original vision for the space involved more conventional, walled-in interior offices, but they had a change of heart. “We realized the strength of the space was the openness and light, so we worked with (architecture firm) Epstein to find a way to give us more space but keep the light and openness,” he says.

Indeed, there are few areas in the 11,167-square-foot office space in which any employee — from partners to paralegals — are separated by a solid wall.

Co-founder and partner Peter Spingola says that by paying attention to collaboration, clients would automatically see benefits. “First and foremost, we’re here to serve our clients and help them through their problems,” Spingola says. “Our secret sauce that helps us operate at a high level is the collaboration within our group. The unique areas throughout our firm, along with advanced technology, really help with that.”

The most striking physical characteristic of Chapman Spingola’s space is the “soft conference” area in the interior. Resembling a small atrium of sorts, the area contains plush furniture and small tables that look more conducive to lounging and libations than working.

“People can step in them with a cup of coffee and talk about anything from pending cases to the weekend,” Spingola says. “It’s designed to keep a degree of openness while also establishing a level of privacy. And to bring us all together — unlike a lot of firms where people just hang out in their closed-door offices, there’s an open-door policy across the board. We all interact with each other every day.”

An enduring relationship

Chapman and Spingola’s relationship started in 1992 when Chapman opened his own firm, Robert A. Chapman & Associates, and Spingola served as his law clerk. In 2004, the two defected from two other firms to open their own shop.

Their firm opened at 77 W. Wacker Drive in 2004, sharing space with attorneys not associated with their practice. As the firm slowly grew to its current 15 attorneys, “we felt as if it was time that we had our own space; our own brand,” Chapman says. “We had reached the point where it was time for us to start thinking about the next phase of our firm.”

They discovered their current space when Chapman Spingola hosted its 10th anniversary party in the library on the 40th floor of 190 S. LaSalle St. and eventually moved in December 2015. As they continue to get situated after only a half year, the firm is focusing on its next phase: growing to 20 attorneys and building out its intellectual property and transactional practices.

“When we had opportunity to see this space, we were really attracted to the building and size,” Chapman says. “It affords us the room we need to achieve that growth.”

New themes

Chapman Spingola utilizes a maroon, brown and cream color scheme — apparent in the firm’s letterhead, its attorney nameplates and the artwork from local artist Amy Van Winkle hanging throughout the offices.

In a special twist, Spingola and Chapman have decided to incorporate an architectural component that existed in its new office before they arrived: half-moon windows that only exist on the 38th floor and the building’s lobby.

“We’re working to incorporate them into our logo,” Spingola says.

A logo refresh is not the only work in progress for Chapman Spingola: As of press time, they were still in the process of naming the firm’s five conference rooms. Just the same, the staff is responding favorably to the new space, says Chapman, citing a conversation he had with an attorney during a recent lunch outing.

“I asked her which office she liked better, and she immediately said this one,” he says. “I asked her why, and she said because it reflects who we are — very collaborative and modern. She hit the nail on the head when she said that our firm has a very client-driven personality and that we take a lot of pride in our work culture.”