Rhoades McKee's new space is bright, open



By Cynthia Price
Legal News

The impression given by Rhoades McKee’s new office space at 55 Campau is airy, light, open, and welcoming — by design.

A great deal of effort over the past two to three years went to making sure of two things: that the new offices reflected “a modern fresh start,” as Rhoades McKee’s President and Chair of Litigation Practice Paul McCarthy puts it; and that attorneys and staff could collaborate freely.

The latter was occasioned at least in part by a realization McCarthy had. “When I started as an attorney, I was often assigned to do research and there were law libraries populated by lots of books and people. I spent hours in there, researching but also talking with other attorneys, ‘spitballing’ ideas.

“As technology has grown it’s kind of isolated people, and then you’re limited to your own ideas, thoughts, and creativity. We’re not trying to change that — we have the latest advances here and we’re trying to go as paperless as possible. But we’re interested in seeing what can happen when people are encouraged to connect.”

The new offices take down the barriers to people coming together, offering a multitude of different “flex spaces” to facilitate collaboration.

The open layout also makes the work day more enjoyable. “We got moved in June 16,” said Cindy Tyler, Chief Operating Officer at Rhoades McKee, “and I’ve already seen more people than I did in months at the old place.” She adds that the move itself, from their old offices in the Waters Building, went remarkably well.

Tyler was instrumental in ensuring all the details reflect the design philosophy. She explains, “The way we practice is changing too, so, for example, it’s much easier to do mediations in the current space. We surveyed attorneys and staff, and kept all of that in mind as we completely gutted and renovated these floors.”

Tyler gives kudos to a firm-wide Space Committee, at first formed to find a new location when the owners of the Waters Building told Rhoades McKee they were going in a new direction. Knowing they wanted to stay downtown, the committee’s search ended with the Campau building next to JW Marriott, using both the second and third floors. The Space Committee continued its work to create the best possible offices, led by real estate attorney James L Schipper.

Another of Rhoades McKee’s values is to strengthen the local economy by purchasing from area vendors. “We wanted to recognize West Michigan’s rich history in furniture design and manufacturing, and utilize local talent and enterprises wherever possible,” said Schipper. “Our firm believes that using the professionals and services available in our neighborhood contributes to a thriving community.”

Steelcase and Herman Miller supplied the furniture, and a newer company called Guild Nines custom-built the credenzas in the offices and cubicles. The cushions on the comfortable white chairs are different colors in different rooms and areas, and that coordinates with wonderful artwork and photography on the walls throughout.

Naturally, another value the new location reflects is a focus on customer service. The atmosphere is much more relaxed, Tyler notes. through such details as a serve-yourself refreshment area near a cluster of soft chairs that look almost like patio furniture; well-lit, comfortable conference rooms, and easy access from all of the hallways on the third floor to the main lobby.

Rhoades McKee was founded in 1960 by Dale Rhoades and William Garlington (William McKee and Roger Boer joined a few years later), and was housed immediately at the Waters Building. In 1983, the firm moved from a small space on the first floor to a larger one on the sixth floor.

Though McCarthy says, “The Waters Building was a wonderful place for us for many years,” Tyler points out that the building physically limited the ability to create larger collaborative spaces due to the presence of closely-spaced structural columns.

The Campau building also offered the opportunity to let in natural light and access views of the Grand River and the city skyline, incorporating deep windows in many of the offices.

The firm now has over 50 attorneys and 42 support staff, and 25 different practice groups. There is room for additional expansion on the second floor as the firm continues to grow.