‘Newer and fresher’

After 20 years, Cassiday Schade leaves its operatic home

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 Rena Naltsas
By Dustin J. Seibert
Chicago Lawyer correspondent

Sometimes, there’s nothing explicitly wrong with an existing office space. It’s just run its course.

Such was the general mindset when the partners of Cassiday Schade decided to move away from the Civic Opera Building on 20 N. Wacker Drive after two decades to their new office in The Franklin at 222 W. Adams St.

“We mainly wanted something newer and fresher,” said co-managing partner John Hackett. “Twenty years is a long time to be in one place.”

The firm’s flagship office moved to the 28th and 29th floors of their new location in mid-December, wrapping up a process that started Labor Day weekend. The new office actually has less square footage than its previous location, but it economizes the space much better than it did at the opera house, said Facilities Manager Dan Byrne.

“There wasn’t really an effective way to slice up extra space in the old building to accommodate our growth,” he said. “We would have had to cut off too much or too little.”

Changing needs

When it came time to upgrade, they made sure to find a space that was just enough for the needs of the growing firm, Hackett said.

“We ended up finding that we had a lot of space that we weren’t using,” he said of the old office. “We had tons of space, including room for litigations, but we don’t do as much of that anymore. We’re more paperless now and everything is computerized … that’s less space we need for files.”

With the decreased space comes better technology. The firm has teleconferencing capabilities it didn’t have before, which makes it easier to communicate with the firm’s eight other offices.

“While the cost up front [of the tech upgrade] is a bit of a sticker shock, it can save money on traveling in the end,” Byrne said.

There’s also room for expansion in the new space: the number of available exterior offices ensures that every associate gets an office with a view of Chicago’s downtown. Attorneys visiting from other offices will have access to “hotel” offices in the floors’ interior. The increase of dedicated meeting spaces from the previous office — now seven conference rooms total — allows for more space for firm work as well as outside events.

“We’ve found that this space is much better laid out for us in a way that makes things far more convenient all around,” Hackett said. “It’s easier for us to get the attention of our secretaries and find people now, whereas in the old space there were a lot of hidden offices and hard-to-reach places.”

Let the light shine in

Cassiday Schade was founded in 1979 when several of its founding partners defected from Hinshaw Culbertson. Hackett said the goal of the founders was to create a culture that was a bit different than the somewhat stodgy, buttoned-up office they knew. That same mindset went into designing the new space, Hackett said.

“Aesthetically we were looking for something clean and modern to reflect that we’re moving into the modern age,” he said. “We’ve been around since 1979, but we still think of ourselves as somewhat young and up-and-coming. When clients come here, we want them to have a fresh and comfortable experience.”

As is the case with several law firms with brand new or recently rehabbed office builds, Cassiday Schade sought to bring in more natural light to its floors. They accomplish this by, among other things, replacing the blinds in the exterior offices left by the previous tenant with frosted windows.

“We felt like our North Wacker office had walls that were five feet thick and built for war like a bunker or something,” Hackett said. “But there’s much more light here — we wanted it like this so the secretaries and paralegals had light shining through to the interior part of the floor and brighten up their space.”

The staff seems to be taking to the space nicely, Hackett said.

“I would say generally everybody has been very happy and that we’ve seen an uptick in productivity,” he said. “People are just happier to come to work because they have a new place to go to.”