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Bottom-up, not top-down: With the support of CSMM, Frankfurt-based Herbert Smith Freehills LLP embraces cultural change

Munich – Frankfurt, 6 February 2023: CSMM, the architecture and consulting firm specialising in office architecture and workplace design, partnered with law firm Herbert Smith Freehills LLP (HSF) to evaluate, plan and design its new Frankfurt office. Their recent move to a space in Marienturm signals the start of HSF’s restructuring initiative, with the design process itself already bringing about cultural change within the firm. Everyone on the team had a role to play in the design of the new workplace that spans 2500 square metres of floor space over three levels. By getting staff involved at an early stage, whether it was evaluating the workflows or redesigning the use of space, HSF succeeded in creating a new corporate interior design that embodies the brand’s innovative power. “This dynamic process ended up completely transforming the traditional structures of the legal profession,” explains CSMM Managing Partner Malte Tschörtner, who oversaw the implementation of the extensive change management process. “The HSF staff members involved in the process advocated for more flexibility in forming teams, with the prospect of reshuffling team members for different tasks. So, we decided to open up the space to allow for more diversity and transparency in collaborative work.”

Successful change management: “Everyone has a say in the way the office looks.”

The legal profession is known for very hierarchical structures that also define the office space in most firms. HSF made the right choice to modernise the workplace as part of a broader change management initiative. According to HSF’s Building Services Manager Stuart Moles, “It is crucial to involve local staff – and get the communication strategy right – if you want staff buy-in for a new set-up.” HSF’s partners at the architecture and consulting firm used online surveys and workshops to liaise between the firm’s different departments during the planning phase. Local staff came together in a series of workshops on various topics to establish the overall goals, the profile of the law firm and the requirements for day-to-day operations. “Right from the start, we were surprised at how open HSF was to these detailed surveys and analyses,” stressed CSMM Project Manager Katja Heimstädt. “Trying to interpret what cultural change means in a particular law firm is definitely one of our biggest challenges, and that makes it all the more important to open a dialogue with staff at an early stage. We anticipate, encourage and visualise. It is our job to support the local teams as they make the new workplace design their own – that’s the best way to give staff a true sense of belonging.”

The project team posted regular updates on HSF’s in-house sharepoint to track and communicate the project’s progress, getting the entire team involved in the design process. A corporate video CSMM produced outlining all the insights gained in the workshops and discussions informed the detailed floor plan and furniture design of the new office. “Even before the move, we had members of staff visit the construction site on several occasions. That gave us a chance to manage expectations and gain insight from their first impressions,” Heimstädt continues. “Our goal was not just to create a high-quality and forward-looking workplace,” argues Stuart Moles, who was personally involved from the outset as project manager for HSF. “It was more about giving everyone on staff a say when it comes to reshaping the workflows in this new open-plan space.”

Successful corporate interior design: “It motivates and inspires everyone on staff to be the best they can be.”

This ambitious project was never just another “new work” initiative for HSF or CSMM. Instead, the goal was to transform the new Frankfurt office into a built landscape of purpose and values that provides an outward representation of the corporate culture. HSF was not focused exclusively on aesthetic and functional aspirations for this corporate interior design. “It also becomes a vehicle for their corporate strategy and their corporate culture,” says Malte Tschörtner, “which plays a huge role in employer branding.” Tschörtner felt it was vital for the design to communicate the potential of a new workplace as well: “Successful corporate interior design always has the biggest impact inside an organisation. It motivates and inspires everyone on staff to be the best they can be.” For Stuart Moles, CSMM was a key player in the change management process: “Without CSMM’s support, this move would not have been as successful.” The result is a dynamic yet extremely elegant workplace with a wide range of spaces on offer to enable concentrated, collaborative and hybrid work all at the same time. The generous use of glass within the space promises more transparency and communication, with private offices still available for confidential conversations and a 175-square-metre breakout space inviting people to linger. The ingenious design and, in particular, the colour and material palette have proven inspirational for the team, who enthusiastically embraced their role as co-creators during the design process. CSMM was also responsible for the new office’s innovative acoustic and lighting design.


Media contact

Contact: Nicole Vesting
Kurfürstenplatz 6, 80796 München
Tel: +49 (0)89 45 23 508-11
Fax: +49 (0)89 45 23 508-20

CSMM Contact

CSMM – architecture matters
Contact: Nina Eisenbrand
Werk 3, Atelierstraße 14, 81671 München
Tel.: +49 (0)89 960 15 99-0
Fax: +49 (0)89 960 15 99-99


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