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The Law-Firm Lobby

Despite Tough Times, Expansive Lobbies Thrive 

Bloomberg BNA, Oct. 27, 2015

For a reminder of how fast design trends can change, look no further than the July 1990 edition of the ABA Journal. Several pages are given over to honoring the winners of the journal’s then-annual law office design competition.

The winning offices in 1990 were dotted around the country, and they show a few regional variations, like a desert-inspired color palette for a small firm in Texas. But some features appear again and again in the photos: lots of wood, mostly dark. Standard-height ceilings with fluorescent or recessed lights. Rich leather furniture; round columns; shelves upon shelves of books. This is the style that many of us still associate with law firms. (Think of the TV show The Good Wife and movies like Michael Clayton.)

Twenty-five years later, almost everything has changed. Instead of a dark warren of mahogany tables and wall sconces, lawyers want an open suite of rooms washed in daylight. But one thing has survived: the expansive lobby or reception area.

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Photograph by Eric Laignel