How Patent Attorneys Are Becoming Workplace Pioneers | Oktra
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  • How Patent Attorneys Are Becoming Workplace Pioneers

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  • Patent attorneys are famously adept at helping clients promote new ideas and developments. Recently, they have also become notable champions of their workplace innovations.

    Historically, the UK legal sector has been characterised as corporate, formal and inflexible. Law firm premises have been typecast as being associated with rigid routine, paper-based processes and cellular office configurations. But the modern legal workspace paints a very different picture, with patent attorneys leading the way in creative office design.

    A recent survey by Thomson Reuters found that 86% of UK law professionals would like to retain options such as remote working and flexible workdays, with COVID-19 deepening the profession’s engagement with agile working practices. Indeed, the pandemic has accelerated the trend for innovation in this area. As a result, flexible office layouts and working arrangements are set to become a permanent feature of UK law firm workspace.

  • The modern patent law office: challenging tradition

    Today, the patent attorney workplace defies convention and stereotype. Gone are the days of corner offices, wood-panelling and mahogany desks. Gone are the shelves of leather-bound books and ledgers. And gone are the ultra-conservative workplace cultures that once defined the sector.

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  • Driven by the rising cost of corporate real estate, rapid technological advancements and the increased viability of remote working, patent attorney law firms are reimagining and remodelling their workspace. Digital storage, extensive outsourcing and reduced occupancy levels are fast becoming the norm, while open and inclusive office environments signal a definitive break from the past. Office space is also shrinking, as law firms opt for reduced square footage as part of a major drive towards cost efficiency. This trend is consistent with the national picture. According to the Financial Times, activity-based working practices in the UK could see a reduction in floor space of up to 30%.

    In another break with tradition, organisational structures have also been revised. Many firms are focusing on business outcomes and client outreach, with company management being guided by non-legal business executives rather than managing partners. Such innovations are transforming the way law firms are utilising their workspace, which in turn is impacting how these spaces are being designed. And from the shadow of its corporate past, the new patent attorney workplace is emerging – forward-thinking, on-trend, and on the money.

  • Spatial innovations within patent law firm premises

    A key feature of the modern patent attorney office is the shift towards open and adaptable space. Moving away from siloed and segregated interiors, patent law firms are embracing more open-plan and collaborative spatial arrangements.

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  • Boult Wade Tennant, a leading global intellectual property firm, is a prime example. Requiring an office with increased social and breakout space, their workplace transformation enabled flexibility and more modern ways of working within their office. With a nod to the past, the new office design was partly dedicated to the history of patency through a ‘stained glass’ theme – a reference to the first recorded patent in England. But the new spatial dimensions are entirely future-focused, with interiors flowing seamlessly into one another to enable freedom of movement and interaction. The reimagined office has introduced agile working to the business, creating a more diverse and collaborative environment. The revamped workspace also includes diner-style booths with individual screens, providing the opportunity for both formal and informal meetings, as required.

    Elsewhere, IP firm Marks & Clerk have remodelled a flexible and timeless workplace that reflects their corporate branding in a subtle and sophisticated way. With a breakout area, reception area and meeting suite separated by floor-to-ceiling sliding panels, the company has created agile and adaptable new spaces at the heart of its London office. This is space that can be easily transformed to facilitate individual meetings, board meetings and events. In this way, the new office design embodies the modern workspace spirit of flexibility, connectivity and co-creation.

  • The shift to hybrid working

    According to the Office for National Statistics, 84% of employees who worked from home as a result of Covid-19 say they intend to continue balancing remote and office-based work in the future. In the words of Stanford Professor Nick Bloom, “it is becoming pretty clear now that hybrid working is here to stay”.

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  • The legal sector has been quick to recognise the value of more progressive, hybrid-friendly working environments. Leading intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers, for example, has sought to encourage new ways of working by opening up their workspace. Looking to reinforce the lack of hierarchical barriers within the company, their new office design promotes communication and collaboration across all levels. Crucially, a variety of workstations have been introduced to support different tasks and enable greater fluidity. Hot desking also enables staff to opt for a hybrid model and achieve a better work-life balance.

    With increased choice and flexibility, the Withers & Rogers team can now hold private meetings in their ‘hot offices’ or boardroom, while a ‘hearing room’ can be used to conduct virtual court scenarios. In addition, open plan areas and quiet booths enable staff to tailor working time and methods to their daily requirements. Cleveland Scott York has also embraced the hybrid revolution while retaining all the functional requirements of a modern IP law firm. Their redesigned office includes a communal tea point, which adds significant value to the time hybrid workers spend in the office. The tea point also acts as a multifunctional area for touchdown work, meetings and socialising, and provides a dynamic event space for clients. Elsewhere, open plan desking accommodates the firm’s paralegals, while separate offices enable privacy for partners and associates. Overall, the new workspace considers the multiple needs of office-based and remote-working staff, ensuring everyone has the space and facilities they need to complete focused work, host clients, form connections and maintain business continuity.

  • The future of patent attorney workspace

    Those companies that understand that space, and how people use it, sits at the heart of a successful organisation, will be those that thrive in the brave new world of tech-enabled, fluid and flexible hybrid working. With IP law firms boldly pioneering the adoption of workplace innovations, the future of legal sector office design and development looks remarkably bright.

    As the above examples demonstrate, patent attorney law firms are ahead of the curve in leveraging their workspace to drive productivity and shape business strategy. Around the world, legal firms are redefining their workspace requirements to enhance business performance, build culture and accommodate the shifting trends and preferences of the post-Covid workforce. In the process, they are catapulting their businesses into a new enlightened era that confounds the traditional constraints and stereotypes of the past

  • The Intellectual Property Lookbook

    The patent attorney workplace is transforming. For more inspiration about designing the patent attorney workplace, download the Intellectual Property Lookbook.

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