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Open plan working for in-house lawyers

Some in-house lawyers (a minority I would say) enjoy working in an open plan environment, others hate it. I have come across legal departments who having been through the valley of open plan have succeeded in making the case to revert to separate offices, or shared by no more than 2 lawyers.

Most organisations apply a regime across the board and find it awkward to allow dispensations for particular functions. The primary arguments of preserving confidentiality and permitting concentration are often discounted as being overly precious or elitist. Actual layout, heights of any partitions and intensity of occupation make a big difference.

If you are working open plan, you do need to have a haven somewhere for concentrated work without distraction – especially reviewing and considering a document. If you are producing something, it is easier to shut out distractions.

One of the supposed advantages of open plan is ready communication amongst colleagues. I have come across departments where there is a lot of banter and others where you could hear a pin drop because nobody wants to disturb anyone else. Proximity of working is no guarantee of good communication – you need to work hard at it, whatever the office layout. A number of in-house lawyers thrive by being located in the hurly burly of a commercial team working in open plan – others regard such an environment as hellish.

Any views about open plan and successful ways of combatting or working with it?