Generational Differences Impacting Workplace Design.

On May 8, 2015 I will be presenting at the Wisconsin Bar Leaders Conference.  My session topic is “Titanium Hips with Smart Phone Holsters – The Ethical Implications of Generational Differences. ”  The session explores an area that interests me a LOT – generational differences.  In the past few years I have become addicted to articles, stories, research, and discussions about workplace generational differences and the impact they have on co-workers, professional peers, and customers.  For lawyers, that means understanding different communication styles and expectations between in-office lawyers and staff, outside lawyers who are working on the same case/claim/matter, judges, and clients.

Even if you aren’t a lawyer, you might be interested in this article I found on  “Workplace Design Implications of Emergent Worker Attitudes” is a great article about how generational differences are impacting the relationships between co-workers and as a result, the physical workplace.  The article addresses four key areas of changes with the first being, “There is a shift in the nature of the social contract between “worker” and “employer”, what Dan Pink has called “free agents” and not employees.”  The second is a move from hierarchical management to collaborative work models. These fundamental shifts in how people approach their work is impacting the space they work in as well.

“$1200 chairs and carpet refresh every 5 years are a thing of the past.” says the article. Desks, offices, cubicles, file cabinets, and personal assistants, may soon be a thing of the past. I know that in my mere nine years of practicing law the approach towards the physical space of law firms has changed dramatically.  Take my office for example.  I do not have a “file storage room” or a “library.”  The only “legal” book in my office is a Black’s Law Dictionary that my husband bought me fifteen years ago!  (However, if you’re looking for a copy of Anna Karenina, Dr. Zhivago, Sherlock Holmes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Moby Dick, or other classics, call me. Chances are I’ve got it here in my office.)

The field of law is desperately clinging to traditional titles such as “partner” and “associate” and “staff” assuming there is an unstated but understood status that comes with those titles.  Likewise, there are firms that hold tightly to the traditional expectations of what a law firm should look like.  You’ve seen them on television and in the movies – those offices with wood paneled walls, rows and rows of those funky yellow books with the red stripes, the “conference room” and “corner offices” where partners have leather couches for themselves.  For decades law has been practiced in offices that equate opulence with success and competency.  The fancier an office looked to clients and other attorneys, the better the law firm must be, right?

If the linked article and other sources are accurate, you should be seeing a shift in that thinking.

Johanna R. Kirk – Kirk Law Office, L.L.C. 1418 Tower Ave Suite #6; Superior, WI 54880 (715) 718-2424