For the people: National law firm's new local digs make everyone feel right at home


 By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News
With the lease expiring on its office in Troy, Bowman and Brooke LLP, a civil litigation boutique, opted not only for a new location, but also a new look to go along with it. The firm’s new 18,000-square-foot space in Bloomfield Hills is full of surprises, such as the light palette and spa-like quality that soothes the soul. 
Woodward Avenue offers the best of both worlds with a convenient hub in the heart of a quiet environment, according to Bowman and Brooke officials. Natural light pours through the expansive windows, lifting one’s spirits, even in the midst of winter. Outdoor views include massive trees and the occasional deer that drops by the tranquil setting. 
The goal was to have a more open and bright office space that provides a lot more natural light than their previous location. Another objective was to go in a more eco-friendly direction by relying on natural light whenever possible. Lawrence Mann, managing partner, describes the firm’s new site as, “stimulating, inviting, comfortable and dynamic.”
Known for defending leading automakers, the firm has branched out to include pharmaceuticals, medical devices and more, according to Mann. Bowman and Brooke had the honor of being named Product Liability Leader by Law360 four years in a row.  
The stress level associated with their line of work was one of the driving forces behind the distinctive design. 
“From October to December, it was a pressure cooker here,” says Mann, referring to their intense trial prep. “People were working tremendous hours with deadlines and stress.” 
That’s why every aspect is easy on the eyes, he says. 
“It’s beneficial to have an interior space that is knitted to the outside. It makes a statement to the staff that they matter and we’re investing in them,” says Mann, a graduate of Wayne State University Law School where he also taught. 
The use of glass doors throughout allows all employees to see the light, so to speak. 
“This is a community. Let there be light for everyone,” says Mann. “It’s a wonderful place to work, but it’s not easy. It’s important to have a workspace that supports people and energizes them. They spend more time here than with their families.”
The firm began with the core principal that their staff is important, which is why their employee retention is so impressive. 
“No one leaves,” says Mann, a resident of Grosse Pointe Park. 
With nine offices including the central command post in Minneapolis, this aesthetic is consistent with the national standard. Workstations were designed to be “user-friendly,” says Mann.
“They’re comfortable, but there is less storage space as we move into the electronic age,” says Mann. 
Since they’ve stayed on top of technology, the new site continues to incorporate staples like video-conferencing that saves clients the time and expense of unnecessary travel.
The firm’s current workforce totals 40 employees including 16 attorneys. 
“We’re lean. In today’s legal economy, you have to be able to expand quickly and reasonably contract,” Mann says. 
The new and improved setting is invigorating despite the serious tasks at hand. 
“Design is wonderful in terms of how it impacts you. I didn’t realize I would smile before I walked in. This is the statement we want to make to ourselves,” says Mann. 
Dark wood that graced their previous space gave way to white oak that acts like a breath of fresh air. Accents include wood slats that warm the ceilings. 
“These little things make such a difference,” says Lyn Calu, office manager. 
A multi-purpose space that can serve as a war room, document processing space or a place for contract attorneys was a clever addition. Whisper Walls were added throughout for noise control. 
Visual treats that tie to the outside include substantial planters from Nature’s Creation and artwork with an outdoor theme. The break room features photos of Detroit landmarks including the Fisher Building where the firm was once located. 
Banquette seating can be found in the break room as well as in one of the conference rooms. Stone and quartz cover countertops and conference tables, while some walls wear fabric and others were painted. 
There is nothing ordinary beginning with the granite floors in the lobby that feature the firm name engraved in stainless steel and the glass doors. 
“There is so much glass and open space, which is not typical for any law office,” Calu says. 
Mann credits Calu for her work on the project.
“You need a colonel on ground to take it through. That was Lyn. She was the focal point in terms of collecting all information,” Mann says. “To get it to this point, you have to be dynamic and tough. There are always hiccups. She managed it all.”  
Phoenix-based CoxJames Architects worked on the project along with Synergy Group in Bloomfield Hills that served as general contractor. 
“Organization and communication are very important,” Calu says. “To see the end result makes it all worthwhile.” 
For anyone planning a major move, Mann and Calu offer some words of wisdom. 
“Define your objectives and start with your employees,” Mann says. 
Adds Calu, “Give yourself ample time for the process; be patient and be ready. And don’t forget some aspirin.”