Tour Finlaysons Lawyers’ Adelaide Office Space By Hames Sharley

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Emma Weckerling
Emma Weckerling
Emma is the Managing Editor of Work Design Magazine.

Step inside the new Finlaysons Lawyers workspace in Adelaide, Australia designed by Hames Sharley.

Finlaysons Lawyers operated from their previous premises for 30 years. This relocation represented a shift in future-focussed strategic and cultural direction while respecting an enviable legal heritage.

Hames Sharley worked with Finlaysons Lawyers to understand the exact tasks important to its future success and identify the spaces needed to support those. While there remains a necessity for individual high focus workspace, this was generally pulled away from facades to democratize access to daylight and views.

The need for focus has been delicately balanced against the desire for improved collaboration – seen as a catalyst for cultural change. That desire led to the mix of alternative spaces organized as nodes throughout the floorplan to encourage movement, interaction, and knowledge sharing. These include a large, playful destination kitchen breakout space, a series of relatively intimate open meeting areas, a knowledge centre and the more formal client suite. They support the reduction in offices and the increase in open-plan workstations and are all united by a design concept informed by South Australian landscape and an overriding aesthetic of ‘home.’

The concept of ‘home’ is a functional response to the needs of both clients and staff using warm colors, abundant planting, natural materials and feature lighting to provide an atmosphere of welcome and support. Profiled wall panels in feature areas complement the striking facades of the base building.

The project team included Services and Acoustic engineers, Certifier and Cost Consultants. The tight collaboration with Elevation’s graphic designers is a differentiator in this sophisticated scheme; injecting new corporate colors, integrating the history of Finlaysons Lawyers and heightening the atmosphere of domesticity through large scale bespoke artwork. The greatest contribution came from Finlaysons Lawyers themselves with an entirely engaged partner group that openly discussed their challenges and strengths.

The arrival sequence, client suite, collaboration areas and kitchen were prioritized as high quality areas with elegant finishes. By compromise, there are areas of well-executed standard finishes – balancing to a surprisingly low budget.

Selecting U City with its environmental credentials demonstrates Finlaysons Lawyers commitment to sustainability. The fit-out reinforced this through maximizing daylight penetration, tuning HVAC systems and selecting responsible materials and equipment throughout.

The domestic environment, the democratization of space, sensitive zoning, deep respect for client experience and the dramatic increase in collaborative settings has resulted in a cultural shift, greater productivity and broader employee engagement. The result is a new beginning for an established firm that is; technology-driven and multi-skilled, in an ever-changing legal landscape.

When was the project completed? 


How many SF per person?

200 square foot per person (25834 square foot/129 PAX or in Australia 2400m2/129 PAX)

How many employees work here?


What is average daily population?

About 140.

Describe the work space type.

The space is a combination of open plan and enclosed offices.

What kind of meeting spaces are provided?

Formal and informal meeting spaces, privacy booths, and high tables for collaboration.

What other kinds of support or amenity spaces are provided?

The space includes a social hub staff kitchen, quiet rooms, and a library.

What is the projects location and proximity to public transportation and/or other amenities?

The Finlaysons Lawyers office is located in the prominent U City Building at 43 Franklin St, Adelaide SA 5000 in the heart of Adelaide’s CBD in close proximity to public transport and Central Market.

How is the space changing/adapting as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

South Australia has been relatively COVID-free but visitors are required to check in using a COVID-Safe QR Code. During Government lockdown staff worked from home and desks are 2100mm so spacious enough to meet the social distancing requirements.

Was the C-suite involved in the project planning and design process? If so, how?

Yes, both the then Managing Partner David Martin and Finance Manager Daniel Schmerl were heavily involved in the project planning and the design process. They were a highly engaged client group and met with the design team on a weekly basis, it was a strategic partnership throughout to ensure the clients needs were not only met but exceeded.

What kind of programming or visioning activities were used to create the space?

Hames Sharley ran a number of workshops involving Finlaysons staff. Vision activities were undertaken to gain and understanding about the perception of existing workplace and creating a vision for the ideal future state. Then we completed tasks assessments to gain understanding the detail of what people do, the respective importance of tasks and the spatial requirements and work settings needed to support their success Following this we asked workshop attendees to review the image pack of 245 images and select images that they liked and articulate their reason for liking the image. The results from these workshops helped with the design direction used to create the space.

Were any pre-planning surveys conducted to get employee input?

Yes, staff completed  the ‘Day in the Life’ forms so that we could gain a great understanding of their daily activities and the work they do.

Were there any other kinds of employee engagement activities?

Vision and Tasks Workshop early in the project, then a concept presentation to broad range of staff, then monthly digital progress updates with site photographs  during the course of the build.

What products or service solutions are making the biggest impact in your space?

Staff love the ergonomic comfort of the Sit to stand Desks and the task chair from Workspace and Herman Miller. Also, the quiet rooms have been heavily utilized. The collaboration booth and social settings have succeeded in driving better connectivity and connections. Staff also love the whiteboards locate throughout the fit out.

What kind of branding elements were incorporated into the design?

Elevation Design did bespoke graphics and signage throughout the space, using the Lawyers suit as inspiration.

What is the most unique feature of the space?

Abstract artwork murals by local artist Kellie Fergusson with movement and colors taking inspiration from the surrounding South Australian landscape.

If the company relocated to a new space, what was the most difficult aspect of the change for the employees?

The main challenge was change management. Although staff wanted to modernize their work environment, nonetheless this involved a shift in culture around how they work, not just a change in the context within which they work.

The successful design and delivery of the fit-out has helped enable this cultural shift. Having fewer offices, and more open space, and smaller offices, and the challenge of storage requirements (now vs future) were just some of the problems.

How did the company communicate the changes and moves?

Hames Sharley designed an environment that allowed for workstations and lots of collaboration spaces with excellent access to natural light, plus workstations that have good functional personal space, with loads of other areas for staff to meet or to work quietly away from desks. Offices are generally smaller from our previous location; however, these are still suitable sizes. All offices and workstations have sit-to-stand functional desks. All offices and meeting rooms and collaboration spaces have integrated whiteboards and furniture that is not only functional but looks great! Hames Sharley was able to design a high-quality and aesthetically pleasing fit-out while being conservative in other areas and having it all seamlessly flow and fit together.

Who else contributed significantly to this project?

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