Walking into the newly renovated office space — spread over two floors of a refurbished three-storey building in the King East Design District — a stunning, stark white entryway confirms what you probably already suspected of the office of Canada’s most famous criminal lawyers: Henein Hutchison LLP is not your average law firm.
“Henein Hutchison is the law firm that makes me happy,” says founding partner Marie Henein, a self-professed modernist who worked closely with Toronto-based architect Ivan Saleff to create her dream workspace. “It’s reflective of who we are. It’s a little non-traditional. Or maybe a lot non-traditional.” To Saleff, this made Henein Hutchison a dream client. “Marie has no fear,” he says. “She’s well travelled and versed in art. Working with her was demanding, but a lot of fun.”
The office is a sea of white, broken by pops of bright, unexpected colour — over-saturated oriental rugs in orange and turquoise, neon yellow light fixtures, nuclear-green chairs — and a few irreverent statement art pieces. (The most unforgettable: a wall of exposed brick covered in graffiti, the one bit of chaos in an otherwise tightly controlled design atmosphere.)
Henein declares herself a strict minimalist, and wanted her firm to reflect her “obsessive” love of negative space. “It’s an external extension of thinking clearly. I don’t like clutter. I don’t like stuff.” All the lawyers have large, airy offices with colour-coordinated rugs and chairs, plus seamless glass desks that leave nowhere for junk to hide. Henein calls herself “OCD” about how tidy she expects associates to keep their desks — and recognizes the irony, considering how she hated when her old law partner, the late Eddie Greenspan, meddled with her workspace.
“You’d go home and come in the next morning and Eddie had been in your office at some point, and lined up all the papers on the right hand side, exactly one inch apart,” she says, laughing. “I would just lose my mind! And now I find myself going into associates’ offices, taking stuff out, organizing. And I’m even more brazen, because I tend to do it when they’re sitting there.”
Though Henein rules the office design with an iron fist, partner Scott Hutchison stood his ground on one point: his stand-up desk, a bulky wooden piece that clashes tragically with the rest of his office.
“It hurts me daily, because I walk by it several times a day,” says Henein. “I’ve tried to cajole him, I’ve tried to bribe him. There’s no parting with it. The thing is, he has such joy when he’s standing at it. That’s the only point of contention between us.”
This story is from our Winter 2015 issue.
Photography by Nancy Tong