Hitting the ground running

How Honigman’s new office soon felt like an old friend

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 Rena Naltsas
February 2018
By Dustin J. Seibert
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn’s move from its previous Chicago office space to its new one was quick and painless, said partner Jason Rosenthal. By letting him tell it, the transition was so seamless that the staff quickly felt as if they had been working in the space for several weeks.

The full-service firm moved from 1 S. Wacker Drive to its current location on the 31st floor of 155 N. Wacker Drive just before Thanksgiving.

“The lawyers left work on a Thursday evening, movers came on Friday and everyone showed up in this brand-new office space Monday morning ready to hit the ground running,” he said. “It was remarkably seamless and represented a tremendous effort by our staff to contribute to the process.”

The Detroit-based multiservice firm is relatively new to Chicago — it opened its Wacker Drive office on June 1, 2015, with only 12 attorneys. That number has more than doubled to 25 lawyers with nearly 50 total staff today.

With about 28,000 square feet, the new office space has about the same amount of space as the old one, but layout inefficiencies didn’t allow the firm to grow as it would have liked at 1 S. Wacker, Rosenthal said. He hopes that the additional space will help to expand the firm’s national real estate practice in Chicago and strengthen the office’s primary practice areas of private equity as well as intellectual property and litigation.

“We were on a growth trajectory that had us filling up the offices in [our previous] space,” he said. “Our lease term was expiring and we knew we needed to do something different. It was a confluence of all those things that made it the right time to move.”

“We have room in this space to double again in size, but due to the layout and configuration of the space, we have actually increased the available offices by around 50 percent without decreasing the size of the standard office.”

Minimalism at work

The new office space is low in frills; small art pieces — most of which came from the old office — hang on simple drywall in the firm’s hallways. The main lobby lacks the ostentatiousness many firms employ to impress people who walk off of the elevator. Lawyer offices are uniform — no massive corner offices for the partners on the H-shaped floor plan.

That minimalism is intentional, said Rosenthal, adding that the firm places such a specific focus on value that it employs a chief value partner, Carl Herstein, whose job it is to provide cost-effective legal services without sacrificing quality.

“Because value permeates the firm’s culture, we utilize it when making real estate decisions as well,” he said. “We wanted a space that encourages collaboration, but at the same time is not opulent or over-the-top to the point that it will cause clients to question where their money is going.”

The space took only about two months to build out, and most of that time was dedicated to the four conference rooms and the café space, the latter which Rosenthal said best personifies the office culture. Staff can have lunch and congregate over the coffee maker. They can watch television on the walled monitors. The entire room can be configured as an additional conference room to be used for inside and outside events.

Other improvements over the old space range from subtle to significant. A technology upgrade allows staff to connect their devices wirelessly in rooms that required a mess of tangle cables in the other space. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and doors for the conference rooms. The breakout rooms at the ends of each hallway allow for more natural light.

“[The added light] really makes the space feel more airy, because no matter which side of the office you’re on, there’s light coming in from both sides,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a big difference from the old space, where we had no design elements that allowed for that”

The new office is only two blocks away from the previous 1 S. Wacker location, so there wasn’t a significant effect on commute changes, said Rosenthal.

“Maybe the greatest impact on someone’s commutes was that people who come in from Ogilvie [Transportation Center] had to walk a block and a half longer,” he said. “Also, two blocks doesn’t sound like a lot, but it does change the radius of lunch places you get used to. But it’s always exciting and fun to discover new ones.”