Law Services Case Study: Firm Evolution

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the March 2008 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Thedriving force behind a facility management (FM) professional’s work isto support the operations and core mission of his or her organization.In tackling the daily tasks at hand—many of which can seem far afieldfrom central operations—this focus can often become a bit blurred. But,there are those times when the facilities team has the resources,foresight, and support it needs to create and maintain a space thatdirectly affects the progress of the organization.

TheAtlanta, GA headquarters of King & Spalding is a project thatreflects that type of success. In March 2006, the commercial law firmmoved out of downtown offices it had occupied in that city since 1991and into a newly constructed high rise in midtown Atlanta.

Foundedin 1885, King & Spalding has been headquartered in downtown Atlantasince its inception. With six other offices in the U.S. and fouroverseas, this commercial law firm has expanded steadily throughout itshistory. In 2001, with the firm’s lease on its space set to expire in2006 and recognizing the need to be proactive, the Chairman spoke withHarry L. Ludwig III, director, facilities & administrativeoperations, various partners, and the chief operating officer about thebest course of action for the firm’s space needs going forward.

headquarters of King & Spalding
headquarters of King & Spalding
headquarters of King & Spalding
headquarters of King & Spalding Photos: Chris Barrett©Hedrich Blessing

“We were looking to put ourselves into space that weknew would work for the firm and that would support its businesspractices for the next 15+ years,” explains Ludwig. “The space we werein was very nice, but it had been designed in the late 1980s, and spacestandards and the use of the space had evolved.”

The Chairmancreated a five person space committee to look at the potential for theexisting offices as well as the possibility of moving to a newfacility. The committee—initially comprised of Ludwig, the chiefoperating officer, and three senior partners in the firm—began byevaluating what could be done to the space they were occupying.

“Thecommittee also interviewed four commercial real estate brokers,”explains Ludwig. “We knew we would need to have a broker working withus in this process. We chose to work with Cushman & Wakefield, andwith them, we identified several [interior] design firms that had donea significant amount of law firm space—which is different in many waysfrom corporate space including that law firms require more privateoffices.”

Upon choosing Gensler to provide interiordesign services, the committee’s next task was to visit the offices ofa number of peer firms around the country in order to identify newspace design concepts, standards, and operational strategies whichmight work for King & Spalding. Explains Ludwig, “We askedourselves, ‘How do we address the issue of space, and how do weevaluate the space we’re in relative to what is being done today andwould be done going forward into the future?’ We looked at peer lawfirms that were either in new space or space much newer than ours tolearn and compare.”

Remaining in thefirm’s previous space (albeit with some modifications) versus theoption of relocating to a new building was evaluated thoroughly. Duringthis time, the space committee also evaluated presentations by a numberof Atlanta developers and learned of a building planned within the citythat could potentially meet the needs of the firm. After much researchand review, carefully considering all relevant factors, the decisionwas made to relocate.

The space committee met with Hines, thedeveloper of what became a 41 story office tower. Eventually it wasdecided that the firm would occupy 421,947 square feet on the threelarge podium floors (15-17) as well as the top 14 floors in thebuilding’s tower (floors 28-41).

Says Ludwig, “Theability to be involved in the project early on enabled us to have agood deal of input. This benefited us significantly in terms ofplanning our space in the new building.”

headquarters of King & Spalding HarryL. Ludwig III, director, facilities & administrative operations,King & Spalding, was integral to the planning of the firm’s newheadquarters space.

Be Flexible

Once the decision was made tomove to a new building, the space committee (expanded to nine membersby the addition of four partners and renamed the building committee)set to work with Gensler to design its offices. Flexibility was a themethat had arisen early in the planning process; Ludwig explains that theability to reconfigure certain areas quickly to accommodate changingneeds without costly, time consuming redesign and construction wasparamount.

The numerous and varied activitiesoccurring on practice group floors meant that space needs could changequite frequently. For instance, a practice group might need an extraworkroom while a case was occurring; yet, when the case concluded, thespace might be needed for file storage or some other purpose.

Thefirm is comprised of two types of practice groups—transaction andlitigation. Each has different needs in terms of space usage. Ludwigexplains, “Transaction practice groups require more conference roomsand collaborative space, while litigation practice groups, because theygenerate more hard copy documentation, need more storage space. We metwith the practice group leaders to discuss space planning options andelements that would best meet the specific needs of their respectivepractice groups.”

headquarters of King & Spalding Photo: Chris Barrett©Hedrich Blessing

Together, the designers from Gensler andLudwig’s internal project team came up with the concept of “flexzones.” There are four zones located on every practice floor, providingspace that can be reconfigured by in-house facilities staff.

Wherein the previous space, offices and common spaces were rigid in theirconstruction, the flex zones provide the firm with four areas on eachfloor that can be used in a number of ways.

For instance,many of the paralegal offices are housed in flex zones. Each paralegalflex zone can be divided into four or five smaller areas with 7′ highpanel walls. Modular workstation components serve as the furnishings.The walls facing the hallway and surrounding the flex zones are hardwalls with doors, which give the appearance of permanency.

Thebenefit of the flex zones comes into play when changes in personnel orspace needs arise. For instance, if a practice group needs only twoparalegal offices for a period of time, the facilities staff can removethe panel walls and workstation components that are not needed. Thiscreates a space that can be used for another purpose, such as a smallworkroom, conference room, or file storage area.

headquarters of King & Spalding
headquarters of King & Spalding Photos: Chris Barrett©Hedrich Blessing

Says Ludwig, “We have the ability to pull out thecomponents of one, two, or three offices/workstations, put them intostorage, and then bring in folding tables, shelving, file cabinets, andseating. Virtually overnight, we can turn part of that space into abrand new workroom without having to move walls, relocate electricaland data outlets, reconfigure overhead lighting, and patch or replacecarpet. Conversely, we can flip the space back to paralegal offices orother uses as needed. And we do this without any new construction andthe delay that would cause.”

Ludwig notes that the flex zonesare an example of a central goal for the building committee—to learnfrom the previous space. “It was an approach of ‘Let’s take what wehave learned and put it to good use here,’” he explains.

Less Can Be More

This“lessons learned” mindset applied when thinking through maintenanceissues as well. Ludwig notes that the internal project team paidspecial attention to identify design elements and finishes that hadbeen costly to maintain, created indoor environmental issues, or both.

“Inthe previous space, we had some finishes that required a great deal ofmaintenance,” Ludwig explains. “For instance, we had conference tablesthat were 18th century antique reproductions with beautiful wood veneertops. The problem was that we have people working with boxes full ofrecords, thick files, heavy books, and briefcases. These items arepushed back and forth across the tables during work.

“We hadour wood refinisher in on a routine schedule,” Ludwig continues. “Hewould come in every month to refinish the tables and other woodsurfaces. I used to joke that I was going to give him an office.”

Asa result of this experience, Ludwig specified that all conferencetables in the new headquarters (including in the boardroom) would betopped with granite. “Every square inch of the stone looks as goodtoday as it did two years ago when we moved in,” he says. In additionto conference tables, the firm specified granite for built-insideboards, serving bars, and transaction shelves in secretarialworkstations.

Specifying less wood material in the King &Spalding offices has also resulted in improved indoor air quality andfewer complaints. “We don’t have the odors from the refinishing work,”says Ludwig. “Every time we would get the work done, there would becomplaints. So, we have eliminated this source of smells and VOCs. Wedo have an occasional wood door that needs repair, but we have reducedour need for that service by 95%.”

And in addition toenhancing natural light, more extensive use of glass as well as stonewall and surface panels further reduced maintenance. This alsoeliminated VOCs and improved the interior work environment.

A Kinder, Safer Facility

photo The practice floor secretarial workstations (on left) face attorneyoffices. The granite transaction shelves were custom made for theseworkstations. (Photo: Chris Barrett©Hedrich Blessing)

As the project team worked diligently to make the newheadquarters the best it could be for employees and clients alike, thereconfiguration of reception and hospitality spaces led to the need tochange the way those services were staffed. Previously, reception areaswere located on each of the firm’s 16 floors. And, while there wereseveral conference rooms on each practice floor in the new space,Ludwig explains that much of this function was consolidated in the newheadquarters.

This consolidation took the form of aconference center on the 16th floor. This center consists of 13conference rooms equipped with an audiovisual and teleconferencinginfrastructure. Additionally, reception areas were consolidated fromone on each floor into a single main reception area on the 16th floor.

Asthese spaces took shape, Ludwig began to realize that staffing wouldneed to change as well. “I got the idea to create a hospitalityservices department because of the conference center,” he explains. “Tofunction well, the high use center needed daily management and upkeep.Additionally, we have the conference rooms on the practice groupfloors, and I knew they would need more looking after as well.

“Dueto being so involved in the planning of each phase of creating this newspace,” he continues, “I realized that the dynamic was going to bequite a bit different from that in our former space and that the staffwould need to deployed very differently.”

This involvedtransitioning floor attendants (who maintained the breakrooms on eachfloor) from the facilities department to the new hospitality servicesdepartment. And, the conference center coordinator (responsible forgroup meal functions) was moved from office services to the newhospitality services department.

The receptionists were alsoshifted into the newly created department. Notes Ludwig, “Although wehave only one main reception area now, we have 12 receptionists, and weuse all of them somewhere. For instance, there are two on staff in thebuilding [main] lobby at all times.”


Positioningtwo people in the ground floor lobby was part of anotherstrategy—improved security. Ludwig explains that the previousheadquarters building was relatively “porous” in that there were threeor more entry points on each floor, and not all were visible toreceptionists.

“We had the unfortunate situation, as do a lotof businesses today, where we were occasionally visited by officecreepers,” he says. (An office creeper is an individual who dresses asa “typical” employee of an organization or service provider toinfiltrate the facility with theft as a goal.)

In order tostrengthen the front lines, the committee implemented a differentapproach to physical security. On the ground floor in the main lobby,two King & Spalding receptionists are positioned alongside ageneral building receptionist and a security officer.

Avisitor must check in with the firm at the lobby reception desk, beentered into a computer system, and receive a name badge. The visitoris then announced via telephone to the appropriate King & Spaldingattorney or employee. Once through the security bollards and out of theelevator onto the desired floor, the visitor must be met at theelevator lobby and admitted, through locked glass doors, into thefirm’s office space by the person he or she is visiting. In theprevious space, a visitor could access every floor in the firm bysimply taking the elevator there.

“We also have alldeliveries go up in the freight elevators, which are located near theloading dock,” says Ludwig. “When those elevators arrive in our space,the delivery people have to be let out of the vestibule onto the floor,and they only have access to a small area on one floor.”

Seizing The Opportunity

Presentedwith the opportunity to create a facility that would meet the evolvingneeds of the firm, Ludwig and the team were able to benefit from beinginvolved from the start. The result has been an aesthetically pleasingsetting that provides a more flexible and secure space.

“Thereare a lot of things to take into consideration when you’re planning fora space that will be used long term,” says Ludwig. “You have to be verythoughtful, very deliberate, do a lot of research, and really try tothink through countless variables and concepts so that you (hopefully)don’t overlook anything.

“It takes a lot of time, effort, talent, and just plain hard work” he adds. “All of this is very much a collaborative effort.”

This article was based on an interview with Ludwig, as well as existing literature on the project.

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Project Information:

Project: King & Spalding.

Location: Atlanta, GA.

Type of Project: New.

Function of Facility: Law Firm Headquarters.

Facility Owner: 1180 Peachtree Office Investors LLC.

Project Manager: Harry L. Ludwig III, director, facilities & administrative operations, King & Spalding.

Square Footage: 421,947.

Construction Timetable: November 2003 to February 2006.

Architect: Pickard Chilton.

General Contractor/Construction Manager: Turner Construction.

Electrical Engineer: HESMA/ Gallagher Electrical.

Mechanical Engineer: HESMA/B&W Mechanical.

Structural Engineer: Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers.

Interior Designer: Gensler (Atlanta).

Lighting Designer: CDAI.

Landscape Architect: Roy Ashley & Associates, Inc.

Product Information:

Furniture:Geiger casegoods (offices for associates, counsel, directors); HermanMiller workstations (paralegals, staff, secretaries); Teknion casegoods(managers); Arcadia (side tables); Hamilton Sorter (mailroom, servicecenters, walk-up/convenience copy rooms).

Seating:Nightingale (executive and task seating); Sit-On-It and Arcadia(conference room chairs); Brayton (telephone room stools); DavidEdwards Seating (sitting areas); Geiger Pinpoint (office guestseating); Geiger Collegeville (office guest seating); Brite (receptionareas sofas, side chairs, loveseats).

Office/Administrative Storage: Tennsco Metal Shelving.

Flooring: Marmoleum; Kahrs (wood for partner spaces).

Carpet: Milliken; Karastan (for partner spaces).

Ceilings: Armstrong Tile.

Wall Coverings/Textiles: Specialty Finishes.

Surfacing: Crystal Marble (granite conference tabletops, built-in countertops, and workstation transaction shelves).

Acoustics/Sound Masking: Armstrong/CMS.

Movable Walls: Skyfold.

Office Equipment: Xerox (copiers); Océ (fax machines); Avaya (telephones).

Security System: WFI (access control); Kratos.

Fire Alarms: Gwinnett Sprinkler.

Safety Equipment: Zoll (AEDs); Gwinnett Sprinkler.

Lighting Control Products/Sensors/Fixtures: Acuity Brands.

HVAC Equipment: B&W Mechanical.

Backup Power: Liebert.

IT Infrastructure: EDI.

Exit Signs: Edge-Lite.

Signage: Precision Engraving.

Windows/Curtainwalls/Skylights: Bruce Wall and Jamco.

Window Treatments: MechoShade.

Elevators: Otis Elevator.


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