Should you choose an employer on the strength of its décor? No. But sometimes the little things – like priceless art or a stuffed shark – can be the deal clincher.
In these Chambers Associate Best Office awards, we’ve picked out the firms that stand apart from the corporate hordes with their standard-issue “lovely views” and tedious “Bauhaus furnishing."
Best outdoor space: Venable
Whether it's to top up the tan or simply because exposure to daylight is a rare occurrence for a BigLaw attorney, during our research we've come across several offices with a roof terrace. Both Clifford Chance's and Cadwalader's DC digs have a roof deck “which is great for parties,” while Holland & Knight's Boston office boasts multiple outdoor spaces.
But the prize goes to Venable's DC office, which offers the only outdoor roof space which doubles as a bocce court. We were informed that the bocce tournament takes place here once a year and “is a big deal,” with the winner laying claim to “massive bragging rights.” But what is bocce, we hear you cry? You can read more about it here. Venable's DC dwelling will be moving in 2017, although rest assured that the bocce court will be coming with them: “It's built into the contract that it's there,” one newbie hastily confirmed.
Best artwork: Allen & Overy
While Kramer Levin may house “a whole bunch” of “super weird” art that is “basically just paint splatters,” and the Fish & Richardson Dallas office apparently even boasts some Lichtensteins, nothing can be as heartwarming as Allen & Overy's New York art offering. A nod towards its charitable efforts, the firm displays “pictures on the walls drawn by the kids we sponsor,” giving the place “a very warm feel.”
“It's horrible and wonderful at the same time.”
Best on-site animal: Reed Smith
There were many contenders for this award (despite the fact that, sadly, Gibbons didn't live up to its name). Runners-up for this prize are Hangley's life-size model cow in the Philly HQ, Crowell's infamous collection of rubber ducks which can be found all over the DC office, and Dentons' peregrine falcons which fly around the Atlanta digs eating pigeons. “They breed them here and you see them hanging outside your window.”
But no animal, real or fake, sounded as adorable as five-year-old Edie (pictured right), the boxer-retriever cross that lives in the lobby of Reed Smith's Pittsburgh office. Although technically belonging to the hotel that shares Reed Smith's lobby, associates told us that because of this canine companion – who is allegedly a rescue dog –“it's so fun to walk in every morning.” One junior added that “she's friendly and loves people – it's really welcoming!”
Best snack supply: Pepper Hamilton
In the running for this award was Munger, with it's 'hole food' Thursdays: “There are free bagels and donuts for everybody,” not to mention Baker Botts' Houston HQ which holds an m&m day every Friday. “We have giant canisters and we rotate flavors. We also have soda fountains on most of the floors,” an associate reported. “It's horrible and wonderful at the same time.”
“When the lemons are ripe we have a Martini party, and when the limes are ripe it's a Margarita party!”
But trumping them has got to be Pepper Hamilton's Boston office:“One partner has a lemon and a lime tree in their office,” one junior explained. Although that doesn't sound particularly exciting in itself,“when the lemons are ripe we have a Martini party, and when the limes are ripe it's a Margarita party!” While not technically a snack, we feel that beverages win over bagels any day.
Best architecture: Sterne Kessler
Although Bracewell was high up on the list for this one, with the Houston head office located as it is in the iconic Pennzoil Place (pictured left), we had to give it to Sterne Kessler for its DC dwelling. “The building itself is a 12-story, refurbished bus station,” an associate reported. “In 2013 they redid all the floors we're on,” another told us. It’s “very modern and industrial looking, which I think is very cool.” The office even has a claim to fame: part of the 1994 action comedy True Lies was filmed there. Watch out for our review of Sterne Kessler coming soon on Chambers Associate.
Best bizarre addition: Fish & Richardson
While we heard talk of a stuffed shark in a Crowell partner's office (you’ll have to get a job there to find out if it's true), the hands-down winner for this award has to be Fish & Richardson for its infamous bat cave –“a conference room filled with Batman paraphernalia.” When we asked why exactly such a room exists, one junior responded: “You could ask why not?” (Could we?) “There's a partner who has a great love of all things Batman, and it's his memorabilia. He's christened other partners Superman and Wonder Woman, too.” We feel we should leave it there...
Best overall décor: Baker & McKenzie
This is arguably the most important award; never underestimate the value of an impressive interior when it comes to inspiring infant associates. There are so many we could mention here, including Holland & Knight's Boston office that “looks like the inside of an iPod,” MoFo's New York candy-striped walls, or Proskauer's “phenomenal,” “beautiful,” interior (see left and top), complete with wine bar and swanky café.
But the top spot has to go to Baker & McKenzie, if only for having featured in Transformers 4 (and if that can't win them a prize we don't know what can). The firm's Chicago office looks out over Millenium Park, and juniors felt that “it's clear we're the flagship. Our building is featured in numerous style magazines, it
has this open space concept so our doors are made of glass and we have a beautiful pool in the lobby.”
Odious office ordeals
What would a list of the best offices be without some less approving anecdotes to compare it to? One anonymous associate, for instance, described their office as “a little beige,” while another source from the same firm was somewhat less delicate in their appraisal: “Dated would be putting it kindly. I'd call it dingy. It's brown on brown and pretty grim.” Onejunior from a different firm moaned that even “something simple like a nice pen” is hard to come by in their office. Finally, another firm's furnishings were hit with damning remarks: “They're pretty dumpy,” one associate grumbled, adding that “my carpet looks like an old motel towel.” Luckily, though, these comments are not the norm.