Bracewell Moves Two Blocks, And A World Away
Bracewell's new office is just two blocks from its old one, but the two are so dissimilar that they may as well be different worlds. DC office managing partner Mark Lewis and office administrator Jennifer Henson showed us around the brand-new space at 2001 M St, where Bracewell is the anchor tenant.
Bracewell was the first tenant to sign on two years ago, back when this was still the old red granite KPMG building. The building has entirely changed since then, including the removal of the façade, acquisition of a LEED Gold certification, and the construction of two new "super floors" with 12-foot ceilings—floors nine and 10. Bracewell has 50k SF between the eighth and ninth floors (including the entire ninth floor). The DC office has about 50 lawyers, and the office has room for growth.
The use of glass is a huge change, says Jennifer; the old office was traditional and "pretty dreary and worn," with dark wood, green carpeting and a choppy layout that wasn't conducive to interactions. There were so few meeting spaces that Mark would even suggest scheduling meetings at the offices of co-counsel or opposing counsel.
Here, there are numerous breakout spaces, team rooms, coffee stations and a café. Both floors have glass-enclosed rooms and open areas for collaboration and internal meetings, leaving the large conference room for client-facing activities.
This conference room just off reception on the ninth floor—the go-to site for client events, fundraisers and holiday parties—can hold about 85 people depending on its configuration.
The ninth floor is made of four identical quadrants, each with partner and associate offices and a coffee area. The office's open layout and gathering places lend themselves to interaction between employees, Mark and Jennifer tell us.
Space is also more efficiently used; for instance, instead of low-slung filing cabinets, floor-to-ceiling cabinets painted the same color as the walls line some of the hallways. (It helps that file storage was reduced by 50% during the move.) The library is one-third the size of the previous one.
While the large conference room is client-facing, all offices are behind glass doors accessed by fingerprint scanners. (The fingerprints work in all Bracewell offices, so there's no need to carry around separate key cards.)
We snapped Mark and Jennifer in front of the internal staircase, which they felt strongly about having so people are able to easily go between floors and interact. The stairs were lifted into place by crane.
Team rooms, such as this one, are all furnished differently, with mixtures of couches, desks, tables and interactive whiteboards that hook up to tablets. These tables move around so people can collaborate. Although the team rooms are on the interior, the glass fronts of the team rooms and offices mean you still have a sight line to the outdoors.
The room can easily be converted into two associate offices with the addition of a center wall.
We stopped by Mark's corner office. He tells us he's interested in growing the DC office's strengths: energy, government relations and environmental law, and adding government contracts lawyers. It would like to build up its white collar and technology (such as IP licensing) practices, which are both prominent focuses throughout the firm.
In his practice, Mark says he's working on several new pipeline infrastructure projects. Even with low oil and gas prices, people need to get the right product to the right market, so a lot of infrastructure work is still happening involving construction through populated areas.
Lawyers' offices come in two sizes: partner (250 SF, three window panes wide), and associate (150 SF, two window panes wide). Mark says they talked about going single-size for everyone, but it wasn't possible because of the location of the building's window mullions. All of the east- and west-facing offices have automatic shades.
Lawyers and staff all have a desk that transitions from seated to standing with the push of a button. All of the partners have wireless speakerphones on their standing desks, so people don't have to hold phones and navigate cords.
Here's one of the guest offices. Most of Bracewell's furniture is by Unifor; the old office's furniture was donated to several nonprofits, and the leftovers went to a warehouse where nonprofits can later go pick up items they need.
Throughout the construction process, Mark and Jennifer kept lawyers and staff updated and brought them on periodic tours around the space. In November, the building was sufficiently built that Bracewell's construction folks could get in. The office's build-out happened from November to March, and the firm moved in over Easter weekend, though there are still some punch list items remaining.
The new office is much more usable in terms of bringing in clients, Jennifer says. After the move, they asked that folks hold their complaints for 45 days and haven't had any yet (and lawyers aren't shy about voicing their opinions, they joke).
"It's nice being in a new space, people feel good about it," says Mark. "I think even if some people would rather have things differently, people are genuinely happy."