“Today’s offices are an evolution of workplaces and corporate image”
Interview with Francisco Lorenzo González, Head of the Department of Projects and Maintenance of the Law firm Cuatrecasas.
Leaders in Spain and Portugal and present in the main European countries and Financial Centres worldwide, Cuatrecasas is a law firm internationally renowned with over 27 offices in 12 countries and a team of approximately one thousand lawyers highly specialized in all corporate law areas and experience in different jurisdictions. In 2016 its estimated total gross revenue was of 270 million euros which was in line with the sustained growth experienced over the past six years.
We talk with Francisco Lorenzo González, Head of the Department of Projects and Maintenance of Cuatrecasas about the last refurbishments of the offices located in Madrid, Barcelona and Mexico. For this organization –he says– design is of vital importance as it reflects part of its own identity. In this line, he points out that the opportunity offered by Ofita to customize furniture has been very important as he explains in this interview.
– How important in the design of offices for Cuatrecasas?
For our company, design is of great importance as it is the external image of the company and the place where our collaborators work. For every new project, we always analyse all aspects in which design is involved (building, common areas and client areas, work spaces). We do not only look for an aesthetic design but also for a practical one. We are convinced that workplaces are a lever for cultural change within our firm. In this sense, new technologies and younger generations demand a change which we try to provide through the design of our offices.
– When designing, which factors do you give priority to?
When we design an office we bear in mind many factors; on the one hand, the fact that offices represent us externally. On the other hand, that it may help us boost cultural change. In this sense, the firm has invested heavily in technology which affects the design of spaces itself and it is thanks to it that today we can manage without a large number of cabinets we had in the past, achieving a lighter and more transparent environment or applying paperless or clean desk policies. Technological progresses have provided lighter and more flexible workplaces. We can work in one workplace, then in another and even outside the firm.
When designing, we also take into account energy efficiency. We think about installing efficient devices such as LED lighting, regulators for luminous intensity, automatic devices for common areas, low-consumption air conditioning systems, photovoltaic and thermosolar panels, tab aerators. We also implement efficiency policies such as lighting and air conditioning shut-off hours, maximum and minimum temperatures, etc. all of it, in order to achieve a more efficient building. Moreover, we try to achieve sustainably qualified buildings. As for Madrid and Barcelona, we were granted the Gold LEED Certification; and in Mexico, the Platinum LEED Certification. We pay great attention to all these factors as a whole. We do not only focus on one.
– How would you define today’s offices?
Both our workplaces and our corporate image have evolved throughout time. This evolution becomes more evident when we change offices. The two last and more important changes of the firm have been those in Madrid in 2012 and in Barcelona in 2016.
In Madrid in May 2012 we moved to calle Almagro 9, a 14 thousand-sqm building. It meant significant progress with respect to the model implemented to that date: we changed from a very classical firm to a more modern model. One of the most important steps was to separate public spaces from workplaces. Public spaces remained with more elegant finishes and linings. Workplaces were lightened making them more practical and informal. Offices had glazed frontals and walls to provide the space with transparency; we provided more common areas and installed facility corners and internal meeting rooms.
In Barcelona in December 2016 we moved to Avenida Diagonal 191, a 19 thousand-sqm building. In this project we developed the model implemented to date in the firm. We designed spaces for collaboration, reduced the number of offices, incorporated more glazed spaces and implemented what can be called a “visual open space”. We also created new spaces such as think tanks, gravity points, facility corners, collaboration rooms, project rooms and a series of common areas for collaborators. Among them, a restaurant, a gym, a medical service, a physiotherapy and service point. Likewise we provided much more technology.
– Speaking of open spaces: Is this the most complicated sector? We identify law practice with enclosed environments.
Within law firms an important debate is to decide on whether we design open spaces or not. It is worth making a distinction between firms which develop a creative activity and those which develop concentration and confidential activities as it is the case of our sector. In this sense, for a law firm it is very difficult to rule out offices. Reviewing documentation in open spaces is complicated and gives place to mistakes. In our two main projects we discussed this point and decided to maintain offices although with a different layout and use. Now they are more transparent with uniform dimensions and a more versatile use. At present offices are not used by one single person but they can be used by other colleagues whenever the office is empty. In this new design, offices are more useful and flexible.
– Ofita customized the furniture of your headquarters. What value was given to customization?
For us the opportunity offered by Ofita of customizing furniture for our offices was very important. This possibility allowed us to adapt the design of furniture to the design of the environment and of the building itself. It has also helped us make the most of spaces as furniture was adapted to the existing dimensions of the building. On the other hand, it has also provided us with much flexibility especially for the future as with little elements we can make many combinations of workplaces. This flexibility helps us make changes in little time and with reduced costs.
– What do you think will be the next evolution of workplaces?
Workplaces will have to be even more open, flexible and collaborative. Offices are disappearing from many firms, giving way to shared workplaces and common areas. It is not unusual to see directors using the same workplaces as the rest of their teams. Evolution will change depending on the sector of each firm so in sectors developing a more creative work, change will be more dramatic. In companies where higher concentration or confidentiality is required, this change will not be so radical. New technologies and new generations of colleagues who are gaining access to the labour market require different workplaces. The design of workplaces has to adapt to those new requirements encouraging the good development of the work by colleagues and being a talent retention factor.
– What are your future expansion plans?
Cuatrecasas is a global firm that wishes to accompany its clients wherever they go. At present we are strongly investing in Latin America. In fact, last year we set up an office in Mexico with 650sqm and 35 employees.