Being a world-leading law firm isn’t just about being the best in your field; it’s about recognising the people at the heart of your success.
A combination of the most talented people in the industry and a culture of innovation and continuous learning makes Freshfields one of the most influential law firms on the map.
It’s a path which has led to the transformation of its London office, a workplace like no other thanks to an ISG project which has woven connectivity and wellbeing into its core.
A state-of-the-art Innovation Hub brings people together to collaborate and learn across a diverse event calendar, while social areas and an abundance of natural light bring a bright, airy feel, small details that demonstrate the firm’s progressive wellness strategy. Connection is the order of the day here – sculptural staircases join 13 floors of teams together, allowing people to move freely through the space and connect with each other as they go.
These are powerful details which resonate with a wider message of community, care and wellbeing – an example of ISG going beyond expectations for a law firm that does the same.
Connection, wellbeing, community. Just three elements that define what this law firm is all about – and touchpoints which have been incorporated into the fabric of its striking new office in London.
It’s all part of the firm's impressive wellness strategy, all part of wanting to do right by its people. Delivered by ISG’s UK Fit Out team, the firm's new workspace enables it to look after its people. It’s a space fit for one of the world’s largest law firms to call home, designed to encapsulate a forward-thinking approach to wellness, encourage healthy working and provide a comfortable setting where people can connect, socialise, and ultimately do their best work.
Freshfields wanted to go above and beyond for its people, and ISG’s project team was no different. Working closely with the client and architect, Sheppard Robson, from the early stages, the team recognised the importance of balancing new, modern workplace solutions with the need for the firm to retain its roots in a traditional industry. No easy feat, and the path to the finished space wasn’t always smooth either – the project completed in stages from July 2020 through to November 2020, amidst a world rocked by COVID-19.
With the client keen for its new HQ to nurture connectivity, sculptural staircases were incorporated to flow through the centre of the space, encouraging 13 floors of lawyers, legislators and graduates to move through it on foot and connect with each other as they go. Wrapped in a monolithic ceramic tile, the central core binds the space and provides a flowing feel to compliment the workspace’s fluidity.
A new, state-of-the-art Innovation Hub stands pride of place. Complete with high-tech AV, tiered seating, presentation areas and a drop-in lounge for hosting events and conferences, the space has all the tools required to enable collaboration and help the firm stay ahead of the game.
Features that promote connection and healthy working are woven throughout. Social areas, living walls and collaboration spaces invigorate an easy-on-the-eye environment, while an abundance of natural light brings a bright, airy feel, showcasing the firm’s wellness strategy in physical form.
While a series of solutions drive modernity within the space, the traditional working methods that are so integral to the legal industry haven’t been left behind. A combination of cellular offices, open plan desking and alternative workspaces allow the firm to operate in its time-honoured working modes, while simultaneously contributing to a culture of collaboration and innovation.
Tea points and central ‘heart spaces’ provide essential space for socialising, while integrated amenities – along with elegant finishes and detailing – convey a sense of comfort and care, bringing a touch of hospitality to the workplace.
The impact of COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works. “The pandemic hit us hard,” says ISG’s project manager, Olly Day. “We shut the site when COVID-19 hit and it looked like there was no option for us but to remain closed – we were working 20 floors up and only had one lift which could fit just one person at a time.”
Prior to the pandemic over 400 operatives were on site every day, so the team had to think creatively to reduce numbers, introduce COVID-safe measures and maintain momentum during the project’s peak.
“We needed to think on our feet,” explains Olly. “We used industry guidance from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), basing our approach around best practice, and created over 57,000sq ft of welfare space. Over 200 cellular offices were used as a bespoke changing rooms and canteen areas for our people. It was a major operation, and a major success.”
ISG challenged its supply chain to be proactive in exploring safe, innovative COVID controls on site, a challenge which resulted in a project-wide initiative to create and embed QR codes. The codes featured detailed ‘how to’ videos, leading to the team’s first paperless risk assessment method statements (RAMS). The team also used video footage to record progress on site, sharing and communicating key information with key stakeholders via live streams – ensuring quality, transparency, and improving efficiency.
Such commitment to care was essential to the outcome of the project, a mentality which can also be seen in the team’s approach to sustainability, social value and health and wellbeing.
During the project, the team volunteered to plant over 700 trees with ‘Trees for Cities’, a charity that aims to improve lives and communities by planting trees in local and international neighbourhoods, and took part in a fundraiser cycle to raise money and awareness for ISG’s UK charity partner, Mental Health UK – a cause so important in a world shrouded by the uncertainty of COVID-19.
“It was really important for us to continue to be involved in these initiatives and champion health, safety and wellbeing on site,” explains Olly. “We led men’s health days and conducted mental health talks – one led by former world champion boxer, Frank Bruno. With Freshfields support, we ran Pizza Friday’s to thank our people for all their hard work, and, most of all, we pushed for the best facilities we could offer during COVID-19.”
With COVID-safe measures and wellbeing in place, and Freshfields’ vision front of mind, the team utilised teamwork, determination and, above all else, care, in trying times to deliver a truly modern, connective workspace for a client that is leading its industry not just in legal terms, but in how it recognises the importance of its people.