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Legal Connections

15 July 2008

Improving efficiency and productivity were a key to lawyers, Halliwells’ move to a prestigious offices in central Manchester. Cutting-edge technology enabled flexibility and universal log on facilities and a ‘plug and play’ power distribution system provided both current and future flexibility

IN THE FAST-PACED WORLD OF COMMERCIAL LAW, location matters. Not just because having the right address is an integral part of projecting the right image and maintaining the firm’s status at the head of its field, but because productivity is business critical. In this environment slick and professional service delivery depends upon effective communication between colleagues and departments, and an ability to respond quickly to clients’ needs. Often, that means adopting a flexible approach and anticipating each individual client’s requirements, adding value in order to stand out in an extremely competitive sector.

For leading law firm, Halliwells, the move of its entire Manchester-based professional teams and support staff to the Norman Foster-designed 3 Hardman Square in the city’s prestigious Spinningfields commercial district last year, answered all these requirements under one roof for the first time.

Explains Pam McKay, facilities manager at Halliwells; “Previously the spread of personnel across a number of different offices had been very challenging. We had support departments in different buildings to the fee earners who relied upon them for service delivery and people engaging in similar legal roles sitting across town from each other. The situation made maximising productivity and reducing turnaround times difficult, it also impeded crossselling and made it more difficult for teams to share ideas. As a result, moving into the new offices in Spinningfields presented us with a massive opportunity to create a layout that would underpin the firm’s commercial objectives. We consulted staff on how they wanted the layout to work and built in enough flexibility to be able to evolve the working environment quickly and easily in line with any future changes to the business.”

In total, 850 Halliwells staff moved to the firm’s new eight-storey building and the facilities team opted to keep the cellular layout that had been in place at the company’s previous sites. All support departments, including accounts, IT, post & print, human resources, facilities and archiving are based on the fourth floor, which allows better integration of service delivery and a central port of call for all fee earners’ support service requirements. A goods lift accessed from the loading bay enables the support departments to accept deliveries on a 24/7 basis, which ensures fast and efficient delivery throughout the building.

On the remaining floors, office areas have been designed to provide a spacious and productive working environment with state of the art secretarial and support workstations to ensure that fee earners have everything they need at their fingertips. Meeting rooms and informal break out areas to provide ample opportunity for colleagues to share information and ideas.

Flexibility has also been built into the space, allowing visiting colleagues or clients to hot desk and enabling resident colleagues to work side by side on a temporary basis if they should need to. A client suite was created as part of the office’s interior design, enabling visiting clients to make the most of their time on site without having to tie up a meeting room to check their email or make an important telephone call. There are also telephone- and video-conferencing facilities on site to enable staff and their clients to hook up remotely for meetings.

“Everything has been designed with ease of use and speed of delivery in mind,” Pam continues. “This is a very high end, professional business that welcomes VIPs to the office on pretty much a daily basis so the office environment needs to be geared up to offer them whatever services they require quickly and with no fuss. With colleagues able to log on to any PC or phone in the building, hot desking is not just for visitors but is a genuine option for any member of staff whenever they choose to take it. In practice, that means that if they’re in a meeting on the fifth floor when an important document comes through, they can check their emails there and then without having to go back to their desk.”

The universal log on facilities is just one way in which the internal layout at Halliwells has used cutting-edge technology to build flexibility into the offices. IT Director, Dean Rowe, specified Electrak’s modular busbar system throughout the building, with around 1,500m of underfloor track being installed. This ‘plug and play’ power distribution system was not only quick and easy to install when the building was fitted out; it also provides both current and future flexibility. Factory-built, the system provides power outlets every 300mm and these are connected to grommets which simply plug in on a five metre grid. The layout of power access points can be changed and refined even after installation of the power distribution system because grommets could be moved simply by lifting a couple of carpet tiles and unplugging the flex. As the company evolves and its needs potentially change, this flexibility will remain; new grommets can be added at any time simply by plugging them into the busbar as required, and existing grommets can be moved quickly and simply.

“Futureproofing the building as much as possible was all part of the brief” explains Electrak’s Paul Clarke. “The Electrak system effectively gives Halliwells a grid of power distribution under the floor and they can add or move power access points as and when they choose without having to disrupt the business or incur the cost of any re-wiring.”

In all, 954 Electrak grommets were installed throughout the building. These circular socket boxes are secured quickly and simply by pushing down the spring-loaded screws and rotating the unit a quarter turn. Once the grommet is installed, the user simply needs to lift the handle to remove the lid so that the equipment can be plugged in and the lid then pushes closed again, keeping cables tidy and providing a neat, enclosed power outlet. They are used in combination with 954 Rotasoc desk modules, which carry power from the floor to above desk level, attaching to the desk to provide sockets exactly where they are needed.

“The Rotasoc system provides sockets that can turn 360° making it easier to plug in equipment from any position on the desk,” Paul continues. “It enables Halliwells to keep large amounts of cables neat and tidy and ensures staff can plug in a laptop or a phone charger using a socket on their desk without having to look for an outlet on the floor. What’s more, because it’s a modular system, if there is a requirement for additional sockets at any workstation the end user can simply attach an additional module to the existing Rotasoc unit and the extra sockets will be safe and ready to go.”

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