Case Study Warner Norcross + Judd

Warner Norcross + Judd is a full-service, client-focused, proactive legal firm. They counsel clients of all sizes—from startups to Fortune 500 companies to closely held business and high net-worth individuals.

With more than 230 attorneys in eight locations throughout Michigan, their office in Grand Rapids serves as a place to connect—in-person and virtually—with staff, clients, visitors, and the community. The firm has been in business almost 90 years, and they keep their outlook fresh with the motto: “Fun, Pride, & Profit…in that order.”


Grand Rapids, Michigan

Project Specs

Law Firm
Building Stories Occupied: 5
Office Size: 80,000 sq. ft.
Occupants: 296

Design Firm

GMB Architecture + Engineering

Dealer Partner

Interphase Interiors

An Efficient, Inviting Workplace That Strengthens Community

Among Warner’s staff of hundreds, no two work exactly the same way. In fact, an individual may change how they work several times a day. Warner sought to create a dynamic environment that provides both quiet space for focus or confidential phone calls and social spaces where people can collaborate and interact with others. The new environment needed to be modern and flexible, while reflecting Warner’s warm, casual culture.

Boosting employee well-being was a top priority for the new office design. Warner wanted to offer spaces where people could connect with each other and the outdoors.  They also wanted to encourage people to get up and move throughout the day. The new design needed to incorporate natural light, outdoor spaces, and technology for staff members to vary where they work as well as accommodate visiting attorneys from the firm’s other seven offices.

In addition, Warner needed a distinguished space to receive visitors, hold events, and offer a relaxing spot where staff can eat, drink, and have fun together. They also wanted to offer this gathering space to local organizations for their events.

A Warm Welcome with an Amazing View

Warner’s new offices occupy five floors of a high-rise in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. When visitors step off the elevator and into the reception area on the 15th floor, they immediately know they’ve arrived someplace special.

Natural sunlight floods the space, which features city views on three sides. Visitors can choose to sit by the fireplace, settle in at a high-top table, or step through the glass doors to an expansive 2,500 square-foot outdoor patio with comfortable seating and Wi-Fi access. The skyline and surrounding landscape provide a sense of connection with nature, even though they’re in an urban setting.

True Partnership

A design committee with members from Warner, Haworth, Interphase Interiors, and GMB Architecture and Engineering held workshops with employees to discover their needs and preferences for the new space. The workshops resulted in principles to guide the overall project, including providing access to natural daylight, collaborative environments, a variety of experiences, plus reflecting the Warner brand using the color blue; and ensuring that it was easy to navigate and circulate through the space.

One design committee member, Warner partner Chad Kleinheksel has worked with Haworth for over 10 years on patents. He brought a unique perspective to the project based on his experience with Haworth engineers and new products. The new Warner office gave him the opportunity to be on the customer’s side—a role that benefitted this project and broadens his view as Haworth continues to develop products.

A New Approach to Attorneys’ Offices

With their new space, Warner let go of the traditional idea of attorneys working in private offices—with sizes based on status. All attorneys now have the same size offices with a height-adjustable desk, and they get to choose their furnishings from a curated palette and menu of options developed from the workshop findings. The options have similar styles for cohesiveness. However, each occupant can personalize their office by choosing finishes and upholstery fabrics, task chairs, guest seats, cabinets, and file storage.

Changes in technology have shifted the way work gets done in the modern legal office. Instead of an outdated 1:1 ratio of attorneys to support staff, Warner’s support teams now work in “neighborhoods” of 2–4 legal assistants. This promotes better social connections, collaboration, and camaraderie that encourages people to share ideas. Support staff is also cross-trained, so they can assist multiple attorneys and keep work flowing efficiently. As a result, if one supporting person is overloaded or out of the office, the attorneys can turn to the others, making work more productive.

Hoteling spaces provide private offices and sit-to-stand furnishings for visiting attorneys, allowing them to change posture, position, and location throughout the day. They also have access to the office’s social spaces, as well as the technology, Wi-Fi, and power they need to work comfortably without missing a beat. 

More New Spaces for Choice, Variety, and Well-Being

The reduced private office footprint at Warner allows more room for newer types of spaces to support well-being and engagement. In addition to personalized individual workstations with height-adjustable tables for changing posture, Warner’s team can move to different work, relaxation, and social spaces throughout the day.

Coffee nooks on each floor provide a place to grab a beverage, talk with colleagues, and settle in with a laptop for a change of pace. The center staircase serves as a common path to move from floor to floor, encouraging serendipitous conversations and connecting people in different neighborhoods. Employees also have access to the 15th floor, which includes a cafeteria with a variety of seating, a cozy lounge, and a rooftop patio. Here, they can connect with the outdoors, each other, and clients in an open-air, casual setting for breaks, meetings, and gatherings.

The wellness room offers a spot for individuals to escape and unwind, and accommodates the needs of new mothers. Tucked away for privacy and quiet, the space features relaxing, subdued lighting, and comfortable furnishings.

Conference rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, as well as the latest connectivity and video conferencing technology, making it feel like clients and employees working from anywhere off-site are actually in the room during meetings.  Adjustable chairs and tables enabled with power make the spaces both comfortable and efficient. At a moment’s notice, they’re ready for virtual meetings, interviews, training, and more—all via video. A reservation system developed by Warner’s IT team makes reserving each room easy, while an iPad outside each room displays the booking schedule.

The availability of online resources meant Warner could also reduce the size of their library. Co-located storage retrieval areas on each floor reduce the need for personal file storage in private offices. In fact, overall storage at Warner now requires 30% less space. In keeping with project goals, the new library area is a quiet, welcoming place to do research with soft seating and comfortable furniture.

A Dynamic Space That Transforms How People Work & Connect

Warner’s dynamic new space brings a refreshed sense of community and pride to the firm, while incorporating efficiencies that support the ways people in modern law offices work and socialize.

With its neighborhoods, nooks, and social spaces, the new environment provides more opportunity than ever for resident and visiting staff to connect and share ideas with fellow team employees. The variety of workspaces and personalized touches give people choices for where to work in ways that best suit their style and feel productive.

Visiting attorneys enjoy the well-appointed hoteling spaces for staying productive on the road, but they especially love the social spaces, which give them the opportunity to build relationships and feel connected with colleagues. Plus, advanced technology and Wi-Fi throughout the office keeps off-site Warner staff connected with video conferencing—no matter where they’re working.

One of the things Warner is most proud of in their new office is the event space on the 15th floor, which provides access to all the best features of the office. In addition to hosting their own events, uses this space to build a broader sense of community by allowing local organizations to host events. The warm, spacious lobby has multiple places to sit or stand, including a fireplace with living-room style furniture nearby. The adjacent rooftop patio offers access to sunlight, fresh air, an expansive view of the Grand Rapids skyline. There’s also a full kitchen with access to refrigerators and ovens, making it easy to host both small and large events—from breakfasts and luncheons to happy hours and formal dinners.

Warner staff like the fact that the patio provides an optional place to work and meet with clients in a relaxed setting without having to go elsewhere. And, employees who work into the evenings like having an outdoor place where they can take a break, prepare a meal, and enjoy a glass of wine while watching the sunset over the horizon.

Most importantly, Warner’s new office is an amazing work and community environment designed to honor its motto—it’s a welcoming place for “Fun, Pride, and Profit… in that order.” 

“What we created was a space that will continue to deliver as our firm changes, as our personality changes, as our clients’ needs change. We want to—every day—be able to adapt, to deliver, and to be able to say, ‘We're proud of this space. And we're proud of the team that works here.’”

Amanda Fielder

Partner, Warner Norcross + Judd

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