In the legal profession, the innovation conversation invariably centres on technology. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with using computers to increase efficiency and reduce costs. But that’s hardly the only way to disrupt the status quo in the industry. Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, for instance, is rethinking one of the oldest law-firm traditions: the boardroom.
In December 2018, the firm unveiled The Zone, a cutting-edge workspace that looks ripped from Silicon Valley. The overarching goal is straightforward: to provide lawyers with a unique place to dream up creative ideas.
The first thing you notice upon entering the room is the quirky decor, which includes polar bear–shaped side tables and bright-pink pillows. The furniture, too, is eye-catching. There are ultra-ergonomic chairs with desk attachments that can shift to accommodate left-handers. And everything is on wheels, so it’s easy to rearrange the layout.
To facilitate brainstorming sessions, you can write on just about every surface, from the many whiteboards to the tables and walls. Even the windows can become writing surfaces. “The glass has an electrochromic film,” says Ilona Korotkevich, who, as BLG’s real-estate project manager, oversaw the design of The Zone. “If you flip a switch, a current runs through the glass and turns it white. Toronto’s skyline disappears, and now you have a huge blank surface to test new ideas.”
Over the past year, BLG has arrived at breakthroughs in its new workspace. For example, BLG’s business-intelligence team — which analyzes the firm’s data to help improve its overall strategic direction — held a workshop in The Zone. The ability to pivot between larger group discussions and intimate breakout groups created a dynamic workflow, which helped produce surprising new ideas.
“With The Zone, we wanted to encourage people to think outside the box from the minute they walked in,” says Lisa Chamandy, BLG’s chief knowledge and innovation officer. “You can’t always achieve that creative, disruptive mindset in a classic boardroom setting.”
This story is from our Winter 2019 Issue.
Still life photography by Justin Poulsen