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Venable’s Brian Schwalb Touts New DC HQ, Designed by Alliance

May 16, 2017 | Jon Banister, Bisnow DC

Two DC law firms that have recently moved offices, Venable and Bracewell, have pushed the envelope for law firm office design with more collaborative space, amenities and glass walls. The firms’ partners say the new offices are changing the way they do business.

Venable moved into 245K SF in the newly built 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW at the end of February. One of the main improvements from the firm’s old space at Terrell Place is the integration between different parts of the office, partner-in-charge Brian Schwalb said.

The office has an interior staircase running from floors four through 10 and individual office walls are made of transparent glass. These changes increase the likelihood of people running into each other in the hallway and sharing ideas, Schwalb said.

“The experience for our people when they come in now is ‘we see much more of one another, we see each other on a regular informal day,'” Schwalb said at Bisnow’s Real Estate Strategies for Law Firms & Associations event. “That creates a lot more camaraderie, it enhances the culture and it’s great for business development.”

Just three and a half blocks away from the firm’s previous office across from the Verizon Center, the new location has not affected commutes but is less noisy and crowded, Schwalb said. Courtesy: Venable One of the rooftop courtyards at Venable’s new 600 Massachusetts Ave. NW office Venable’s new office has three rooftop terraces with a bocce court, a fire pit, a kegerator and barbecue grills. Its amenities include a golf simulator and a spa-style gym.

“The biggest fear we have candidly is people are just going to stop practicing law and they will just be hanging out having fun, which we can’t completely allow to happen,” Schwalb said.

They seem to be able to do both though, he said, remembering a time recently when he saw one of the firm’s legislative lawyers walking on a treadmill desk while reading congressional testimony.

Cushman & Wakefield law firm advisory group leader Sherry Cushman, the event’s moderator, said having more senior experienced lawyers using amenities like this is key to getting the whole firm on board.  “If partners don’t lead the effort, you’re going to have associates thinking, ‘Well I’m not going in there because they’re going to think I’m goofing off,'” Cushman said. “So a lot of this has to be driven by the older generation of the law firm.”

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