Opening up a new present

Foley & Lardner’s 35th anniversary in Chicago brings new look to its River North offices

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 Photos by Rena Naltsas
By John McNally
Managing editor

It has been a year of celebrations at Foley & Lardner.

Recently, the firm marked its 35th year in Chicago, and just prior to that it celebrated the 175th anniversary of its 1842 launch in the Wisconsin Territory. As the Milwaukee firm’s Chicago outpost grows in importance, it has completed the first phase of renovations at 321 N. Clark St.

“The Chicago office is increasingly becoming more of a hub for the national footprint of Foley & Lardner,” office managing partner Frank Pasquesi said. “We thought the time was right to really bring our office space up to where it needs to be to fulfill all those aspects; for our attorneys, but also to the many clients we also host in our office.”

Pasquesi noted Foley & Lardner got by with small “touchups” in the past, but decided it was time to do a full renovation. The office spans four floors and the project’s first phase involved renovating the main reception floor and conference rooms.

Foley & Lardner nearly doubled the size of its large conference center on the 30th floor from 1,600 to 3,000 square feet. The room features multiple digital projectors and screens, as well as movable dividers.

“We wanted our office to be prepared to house our different attorneys for different firm events and client events in our space,” Pasquesi said. “The conference space was critical for that.”

“We wanted to create a space that reflected the image of the firm and the type of clients that we work with,” he said. “First and foremost was the conference center, and the space was something we wanted to make sure was at a best-in-class level.”

Sitting pretty

Francis Zeiger III, the firm’s director of administration and operations, got to play the role of a “cowboy” during the furniture selection process. Foley & Lardner created an in-house furniture showroom for attorneys and support staff to test out what would be the right fit for the universal offices, outer administration staff desks and conference rooms.

“We lined up chairs. (We) had 15 chairs in there,” he said. “The ‘chair rodeo’ was what we called it, actually.”

Pasquesi was proud of the time the firm put into the furniture process — both the selection and layout.

“While the offices are smaller than what partners used to have, the sense (I get) is that with the very efficient furniture design, the offices work incredibly well,” he said. “It allowed us to be very efficient in our use of space.”

Pasquesi has adjusted to his new office surroundings, which include convertible sit-stand desks and cabinet storage for overcoats, files and more.

“There’s nice storage space, and you have everything you need,” he said.

Zeiger noted Foley & Lardner’s design committee had some recommendations throughout the process, including a request for larger work stations in attorney offices. He said they “went back to the drawing board.”

“Attorneys wanted to spread out a little bit,” he said. “We don’t have (desks) consolidated to a single table, (they) actually wrap around in an L shape that goes up and down.

“Taking the feedback of our people was an important component to the design.”

Clear as can be

Foley & Lardner outfitted each of its multiple huddle rooms with new technology as the firm increases its videoconferencing capabilities and more. Jill Chanen, the public relations manager at Foley & Lardner, said she is impressed by the details she sees on screen during her weekly calls.

“We have people in Texas and in Los Angeles that join us,” Chanen said. “It is so crisp. I was looking at something (on the screen) in our L.A. office, and I asked the person ‘what is that shadow behind you?’ It was a palm tree that was waving.”

Pasquesi said the firm did its due diligence on a possible move out of 321 N. Clark, but internal employee feedback showed many were really pleased to come into the office along the Chicago River. The building made its own improvements, remodeling the lobby and fitness center and adding a new event space, RPM on the Water.

“They did a good job of keeping us apprised of some of their plans,” he said.

Once the city returns to a post-pandemic normal, Foley & Lardner is ready to get back to showing off its new space to clients.

“We pride ourselves on staying close with our clients and having our attorneys really connected to the community,” Pasquesi said. “Having a conference space like we now have, we’ve made it a priority to invite our clients to visit, whether that’s individually, or organizations they’re members of, or if they’re on boards. “We want to host them here.”

“We expect it continue to be a showcase space for our personal interactions with clients, the industry and the community in ways we may not have been doing in the past.”