Finished product

Locke Lord takes advantage of its unused space in transformation of 111 S. Wacker office

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February 2020
By John McNally
Managing editor

Locke Lord managing partner Michael Renetzky had a proverbial lump of clay to mold when his firm was ready to freshen up its 111 S. Wacker Drive offices.

“We had some space on (the 41st floor) that had never been finished,” he said. “We had some raw space .… about 65% of the floor … I can’t even remember what the initial thought was for not finishing it right away, but I’m sure we had one.”

It’s completed now and Renetzky couldn’t be happier. More importantly, he states, employees and clients are satisfied. Locke Lord moved into 111 S. Wacker about 15 years ago and Renetzky knew it was “time” for a renovation to reinvigorate the look and to finally put the finishing touches on the three-floor office space just west of the Loop.

When Renetzky and the non-lawyer staff started to map out the plan for the untouched space they had two points that were important to hit. This included, according to Renetzky, every space that clients can utilize and Locke Lord’s semipublic areas such as its employee lounge and cafeteria.

“There are really two things going on,” he said. “One was simply finding the appropriate space for personnel. The other was rebuilding our public spaces. Everything that is a public space has been redone.”

Fresh approach

The firm now covers floors 41 through 43 and accommodates all its needs. The new design was so efficient it was able to vacate the 44th floor which had been part of the firm, leaving Locke Lord with 83,521 square feet total. The 41st floor was completely overhauled, Renetzky said. The other two floors had to be reconfigured to add offices and make the common spaces “a little more friendly.”

“(We also) created some additional functional spaces such as ‘huddle rooms’ where people can work together,” Renetzky said. “But it was a light touch on those floors.”

The work still goes on as well, Renetzky notes. This year Locke Lord has some additional funds to spend on “cosmetic updates” — such as new carpeting — on the 42nd and 43rd floors.

Locke Lord’s revitalized reception area features new chairs and couches. An elevated, long airport loungelike table (with built-in power cords) is accented by a stark orange painting on the adjacent wall.

“You walk into the space and it’s an inviting, beautiful space,” Renetzky said. “It creates a desire to be present here and there’s not too much you can say about trying to make a space inviting when you’re asking people to spend a great portion of their lives here.”

Sizing everything up

Locke Lord’s emphasis was on making sure everything was tailored to the firm’s needs. Renetzky described trolling through in-house data — not unlike how new-age baseball general managers pour through data points on players — to figure out the proper number of and ideal dimensions of conference rooms.

“We put a lot of focus on getting the sizes right,” Renetzky said. “(Particularly) on our conference rooms both for outside visitors and internally. We applied some experience that we had since we moved into the building to know what’s the most common sizes of rooms, how many people do we normally have in meetings and I think it helped to get those right sizes.”

The client reaction has been positive, Renetzky said. They have welcomed the investments Locke Lord made in upgrading its technology, especially by allowing clients easy access to display computer screens via clickshare wireless presentation systems. Clients simply have to plug the USB plug into their laptops and their screens are on full display in the conference room.

“That was the biggest item that the clients have appreciated,” he said. “To just be able to throw up what’s on their screen onto a huge screen and have everyone work with it, that’s probably what most impacts clients.”

Construction coordination was handled by Locke Lord’s Chicago office manager Rita Nielsen and facilities manager Nicole Satterly. The pair was aware the work had to be minimally intrusion and fit into an attorney’s daily schedule. There was occasionally commotion, but when the dust settled, the work spoke for itself.

“Once the construction was done and the hammers stopped swinging and making noise, I haven’t had any complaints,” Renetzky said.