Enjoy the view

The Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek law firm’s downtown Milwaukee offices have several elements capable of wowing the company’s clients.
When those clients step out of the elevator on the 19th floor of Cathedral Place, 555 E. Wells St., the stroll upon a long decorative rug.
Then they walk toward the receptionist’s desk. Behind the receptionist is a 20 by 11 foot lannon stone wall.
"It was put there because lannon stone is a Wisconsin stone," said Mark Miller, chief executive officer of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek. "It was put there to emphasize this is a Wisconsin law firm."
However, the wood, called makore, used for the receptionist’s desk, secretary stations, doors, tables and some walls came a long way from Wisconsin.
"It’s an African wood that we selected in part because it’s less expensive than cherry or oak," Miller said.
The natural grain pattern of the wood provides a unique look to the office.
"The texture is just wonderful," Miller said. "If you stare at it, it almost becomes three-dimensional."
When the law firm’s clients walk from the reception area into the waiting area, they can’t miss the view of Lake Michigan, the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum and the downtown skyline.
The firm’s oval-shaped main conference room, adjacent to the waiting area, features floor-to-ceiling windows to enjoy the view. The doors to the conference room can be pulled back, doubling its size so it can be used as larger reception space.
The waiting area includes a 42-inch cable television screen where visitors can catch up with the latest news.
"It’s been an appreciated touch to the office," Miller said. "But we hope our clients don’t have to wait that long."
Miller said it is important for a law firm to have an attractive office that makes a good impression on clients, demonstrating the firm is successful.
"The look is an important part of how a law firm defines itself," Miller said. "We do not think our space goes overboard. There certainly are law firms that do a lot more than we do here."
"This (office) exudes an aura of confidence, as opposed to ostentatiousness," said Dennis Dean, a spokesman for the firm.
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek occupies 70,000 square feet in Cathedral Place, downtown Milwaukee’s newest office high-rise. The law firm’s 225 employees occupy nearly four complete floors in the building.
The company moved to the building from the Bank One office building.
To decorate the new office space, the firm is leasing about 20 pieces of art from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD).
"One of our lawyers who I’d asked to look at art on (the 19th) floor came up with the idea," Miller said. "We’re paying them a lease payment for the art. It works for their economic benefit, and we get some wonderful art. It really adds warmth. It adds to showing an individualism of the firm, that we’re not routine with standard art. It adds to the ambience."
In designing the new office space, the law firm tried to increase staff efficiency by clustering conference rooms, creating a smaller law library with greater reliance on computer storage, clustering work teams for greater interaction and providing more space for secretarial and paralegal offices.
The firm believes its office structure is now more efficient and has reduced operating costs.
"The entire interior design, how they are clustered, works well to facilitate work flow and works well for client interaction," Dean said. "They need a workflow to facilitate the way the (employee) flowchart is set up."
Many law firms now have fewer secretaries who need more space to handle increased workloads, Miller said.
"The ratio of lawyers to secretaries has changed over the years," Miller said. "It used to be one-to-one. Now it’s three-to-one. The secretaries need more space to handle the work for more lawyers. We have given them the space capabilities to do that."
At Cathedral Place, the firm has several conference rooms, in addition to the main oval-shaped conference room, for meeting with clients, all with views of the lake.
The building also has a balcony where people can step outside to enjoy the view. The balcony usually is not used during the day, to avoid distracting people meeting in the conference rooms, but it is an attractive place for entertaining guests at receptions and other events.
The view from the top floors at Cathedral Place helps to make Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek an enjoyable place to work, Miller said.
"The self-esteem aspect of this office is very strong," she said. "People feel good about coming to work here. Having a nice environment is a large part of it."
Info box:
Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek
Address: 555 E. Wells St. Suite 1900
Space occupied: 70,000 square feet
Web page: www.whdlaw.com
October 29, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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