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Law firm sees attorney collaboration and growth ahead

March 10, 2015
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Paul McCarthy. Courtesy Rhoades McKee

A law firm that relocated last year is seeing a resurgence in collaboration among attorneys, thanks to the design of its new office space.

Rhoades McKee in Grand Rapids packed up its former office in the Waters Building this past summer and moved into new digs at Riverfront Plaza, at 55 Campau NW.

Collaborative environment

The new “fresh and modern” space was designed with an eye toward the future and with a goal of counteracting the unintended consequence of a more technology-driven work style.

As attorneys spend more of their time on computers, they spend less of their time with each other.

“When I started, for your first two or three years, every lawyer pretty much started in the library,” explained Paul McCarthy, executive committee president, Rhoades McKee. “There were other lawyers in the library. They might be a year ahead, or three years ahead or a few years behind you. There was a lot of learning that went on in that environment.

“Once everything became electronic and available at your fingertips on your computer screen, the library wasn’t really occupied by anyone. Lawyers were just in their offices. In that process, you lose the ability to learn and enhance your own arguments based on the ideas of those other people when you were able to spitball across the library table.”

Sensing a desire for collaborative environments that could replace the outdated library space, Rhoades McKee’s new office includes eight flex workspaces.

“Those spaces are designed to drive lawyers out of their offices,” he said. “Those flex areas have been very beneficial.”

McCarthy said working in the flex spaces also adds a level of fun that just doesn’t exist when everyone is tucked away in closed-off offices.

“It just makes the practice of law more enjoyable, because it’s like anything else — it’s more fun when you are able to participate as part of a team than on your own,” he said. “We really want people working together, both because it’s more enjoyable and because the client outcome is enhanced.”

McCarthy said the “build it and they will come” theory has come to fruition, with the flex spaces seeing regular use.

Holland expansion

In addition to continuing to settle into its new space in Grand Rapids, Rhoades McKee is also settling into its new office in Holland.

On Jan. 1, Rhoades McKee opened its Holland location.

The Holland office is the former home of The Rhoades Law Office, which had been operated since 1993 by Peter Rhoades, son of Rhoades McKee founding partner Dale Rhoades. Peter Rhoades is now a shareholder in Rhoades McKee.

Rhoades McKee and The Rhoades Law Office had an affiliate agreement previously.

“Our expansion to Holland is a big part of our push in 2015,” McCarthy said. “We are very excited about our expansion to the lakeshore.”

The Holland office is undergoing renovations that will make it consistent with the design and feel of the firm’s Grand Rapids space.

McCarthy said the Holland office would allow the firm to better serve its growing list of Ottawa County clients and garner new clients in the expanding lakeshore business community.

Areas of growth

In 2015, Rhoades McKee will be paying particularly close attention to the agriculture industry.

McCarthy said that segment is facing a variety of issues.

One such issue is workforce challenges.

“There is a new movement in terms of dealing with their migrant labor forces and their challenges there,” he said. “Now, the demand is exceeding the supply of workers, so that is creating a challenge for farms and farming operations.”

McCarthy also said the firm’s hiring would probably be focused on real estate and in the employment and business areas.

“Those areas are growing and robust, so we are looking for talent in those areas as well,” he said.

Value-added services

Rhoades McKee places a high emphasis on providing value-added services to its clients, and this year, it’s introducing a new business summit, which will be held at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids on May 14, as another way of accomplishing that goal.

“We are planning a Rhoades McKee business summit, designed for privately held businesses,” McCarthy said. “It’s going to be an intensive review of various topics important to privately held West Michigan businesses.

“We don’t want clients to simply call us when they have a problem. We want to better serve them, so they can avoid the problem to begin with. This is a no-cost service offering for our clients to help them to succeed and add value to their businesses.”

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