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Foley & Lardner, LLP

A law firm’s accelerated move doesn't hinder a flexible, sleek and modern interior design

A fresh, crisp design...very appropriate for Miami.

Foley & Lardner, LLP, an international law firm, opened a new office in Miami, Florida, which required the renovation of 24,246 square feet of office space to accommodate 65 employees. The firm wanted to create a dramatic modern office environment that would attract and retain talent, reinforce Foley’s commitment to cutting edge technology, and create an interior image reflective of the Miami metropolitan area. GS&P approached the design of the Miami office by embracing the ongoing efforts of Foley’s workplace initiative with a focus on spaces sized to function, reinforcing brand recognition, sustainable practices in the work environment, and flexibility of real estate.



The Foley & Lardner project had a very aggressive timeline and tight budget but received very high marks from the client for exceeding their expectations. How did your team achieve this?

Leith Oatman: An established relationship with the client contributes tremendously to the success of any particular project. Foley’s national facilities director is a seasoned professional with many years of experience. Under her direction, and with her ability to manage the organization and work with her client — the employees of Foley & Lardner — we were able to excel despite the aggressive schedule. She contacted us in January and shared the daunting task she’d been assigned after an unexpected situation had arisen in their temporary leased space, requiring them to find a new permanent home, quickly.

Karen Rebello: When we had meetings, we committed to our decisions knowing there was no time for reconsiderations since furniture — normally a 12-week lead time — and materials had to be ordered immediately. Their temporary lease situation forced them to be out at an exact date. There were no lease hold-over options available.

GS&P was already familiar with Foley’s standards because we had completed an office for them in Jacksonville in 2000. Our client contact very quickly selected a small design review committee made up of four people, two partners and two associate attorneys, who were authorized to make design decisions that needed to be made to get the project underway. The client was always committed to getting the plan rolling quickly and making decisions in a timely manner.

Right away you were asked to incorporate Foley’s current workplace strategy into the design solution. What were some of the challenges you encountered?

Leith: Foley’s workplace strategies initiative was a dramatic shift for the firm space allocation but included many of the same concepts GS&P incorporates into other clients’ office spaces with regard to using real estate efficiently and enhancing productivity. Although Foley’s new workplace strategy had begun to incorporate some of the workplace strategy concepts for an office space in Washington, DC, there were initiatives in the workplace strategy plan that staff was not ready to accept. We worked with the national facilities director to assess the appropriateness of the concepts. It was another evolution of Foley & Lardner’s workplace initiative; a step closer to the company-wide goals.

What were some of the key elements your team developed to help Foley ease into this new workplace strategy plan?

Sarah Rink: Foley wanted the new Miami office space to attract and retain some of the best talent available in the market. Their profession has evolved into a highly mobile and self-sufficient legal network. Our goal was to provide the professionals with flexible spaces where they could break away from their offices, collaborate and continue to work while promoting cross-culture interaction with the rest of the Foley staff.

Leith: The partners and associates were required to be housed in closed offices along the perimeter, but we wanted to infuse natural daylight throughout the office space. We designed huge three-foot-wide by six-foot-high glass sidelights and incorporated a frosted film material for privacy. We also placed inter-glass transoms on top of all the perimeter offices to form a continuous transom window that came down about 18 inches from the ceiling, between the ceiling and the top of the door frame.

Did the client have any specific requirements for the space?

Karen: The client requested that all spaces be flexible so that rooms or offices could be divided or manipulated. No matter who was hired or who left, the space would be adaptive. There were office standards, yet each person was given personal choices within the scope of standards. The work stations were demountable partitions that could be customized with finishes or the addition of glass to make them more open. In workrooms, such as the mail room, we used a modular system rather than built-in counters of laminate or wood so that the room could be easily modified for new situations simply by ordering new parts and pieces.

In the lobby, the client wanted to maintain an unobstructed view for visitors. How did you accomplish this?

Leith: We purposely selected furniture with a very light and airy scale and kept the fabric selections light with a backdrop that complemented the view beyond it. As you walk into the space, you see this incredible view of the bay that almost looks like a large painting as a backdrop to the seating area. We used beautiful light Caribbean blue colors in the recessed areas and carpet to highlight the seating area which created a very elegant space. And we cleverly kept the area open with a barn door.

The “barn door” in the reception area is hardly noticeable and very unique. How did it become incorporated into the space?

Karen: The barn door is actually an 11-foot-long, floor-to-ceiling movable wall that slides shut after business hours.

In order to maintain the fast track schedule for the project, the plan was reviewed with the City early in the design process. The floor plan was designed for a full-floor tenant so that when you step off the elevator you are immediately in the reception area with a clear view of the Miami skyline. With the project under construction, the City’s interpretation of an egress code required that a rated corridor from the elevator lobby to one of the egress stairwells be included in the build-out. This required adding doors at the reception area for the rated assembly. Since this was not what the client visualized, it was pretty stressful. And yes, it could have been a huge problem, but we worked as a team with the client to devise a design solution and, ultimately, it added a tremendous amount of value to the design.

Your project also scored very high for “exceptional environment and experiences.” Describe the key elements that created the desired effect.

Sarah: Foley wanted to reflect a more transparent and inclusive culture, so we incorporated glass transoms in the interior offices to give the paralegals more upscale offices that were parallel to the design of the associate offices.

The eight-foot ceiling height was limiting, so we designed varying ceiling heights and used contrasting materials on vertical surfaces to create an illusion of more height and perceived depth. We also added an illuminated base in the main lobby to create vertical lift. We made sure that every wood surface that had a texture was vertically oriented. For instance, the texture we put behind the receptionist was an Interlam product with a wave pattern installed vertically.

Which aspect of this project was the most gratifying?

Sarah: Number one for me was absolutely the team effort. I’m also proud of the letter we received from Gail Taylor, Foley & Lardner’s national facilities director. She deals with architecture firms that are our competitors all the time. For her to be so pleased with our performance says a lot because she has extremely high expectations.

Karen: I’m most proud of the overall cohesiveness of the project and the fact that people function in the space and are delighted to be in it. It’s always wonderful to have your clients like the space they’re in and compliment it continually.

Leith: This is an internationally known client with very high expectations of the design professionals they retain. I am most proud of how this team conceived this design solution quickly and then committed to it. Once the client felt our commitment, they were able to commit to the solution as well, which enabled us to make many decisions quickly and accomplish a tremendous amount.


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Project Info

  • Client: Foley & Lardner, LLP
  • Location: Miami, FL, USA
  • Market: Corporate + Urban Design
  • Services: Interior Design, Functional Space Programming, Workplace Strategy
  • Team:
    • Leith Oatman, IIDA, LEED AP Principal-in-Charge
    • Karen Rebello, IIDA Project Manager
    • Sarah Rink, IIDA Project Designer
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