Changing the legal game starts with a great workplace

Changing the legal game starts with a great workplace


Design firm Space Refinery created flexible and one-of-a-kind workspaces for the fast-growing Ask Q team. Bruno Schwartz (Space Refinery) and Rémy Bonnaffé (Ask Q) reveal how the new offices will help Ask Q to build a great company culture, bring the team together and attract new talent.


Rethink legal workspaces

Years ago, Rémy fell in love with the offices from Board of innovation in Antwerp, designed by Space Refinery. For 2022, Ask Q needed more office space, and Rémy started dreaming of a new working environment that stands out. Space Refinery understood the specific needs of Ask Q in its ambition to rethink the world of legal work.

The main challenge was to create a user-friendly working space of 350 square meters that meets a double goal: a place where you can meet people formally and informally and at the same time one where you can work quietly and focused, without losing connection with the team around you.

Apart from its excellent location, law firm Quinz has its offices in the same building, which offers the Ask Q team an opportunity to ask questions and brainstorm with Quinz’s specialist lawyers.


Putting the team at the very center

Bruno explains services firms can do a lot of work remotely, but there will always be a need for people to meet and collaborate: “Spontaneity doesn’t happen online.” Rémy adds that given the Ask Q DNA, the designers needed to rethink the typical business office space and the entire user experience.

With co-creation and user-centric research, Space Refinery put the team at the very center of the design process. “We involved the whole of the Ask Q team via workshops, interviews and surveys to capture all their different needs,” explains Bruno. “Inspired by the agile methodology used in software development, we delivered updates regularly to get feedback on every iteration and make sure we were always moving in the right direction.”

Bruno: “A team can be looked at as one community or many individualities. These two perspectives are completely different, yet we need to take both into consideration to create a space that caters to different levels of need.”


Different areas for different working moments

“The starting point was not to design a workspace immediately,” says Rémy, “it was assessing what we really needed because we simply didn’t know yet.” On top of that, during the design thinking, Belgium was in a pandemic modus, and businesses completely reinvented the way of working.

Rémy noticed two kinds of people: those who come to the office to meet other people and those who need the office to work (because they can’t or don’t want to work from home). That’s why we created a variety of areas within the office. Each area serves a specific purpose. That’s the shared vision we had with the design team, which turned out to be the end result.

Let’s explore the different areas. There are two acoustically separated co-working areas. One area is silent, dedicated to focused work, and the other one is collaboration-friendly. A more laid-back space is ideal for informal meetings and brainstorming sessions. A meeting room with a high table and high chairs was imagined for higher-energy stand-up meetings. You can also find a large kitchen with a central bar for after-work drinks, lunches and coffee meetings. Finally, there is a large lounge with a large projection screen used for all-hands company meetings or watching an episode of The Office.


Different from how lawyers work

The central idea for the offices was flex desks combined with open space. “We needed to tackle this carefully because some people were anxious for lacking their own dedicated desk and being disturbed while working,” says Rémy.

And what about the typical office libraries? “We have a quiet space for study and research, but Ask Q doesn’t have a whole room filled with physical books as law firms do,” explains Rémy. “Ask Q consultants are the extension to our client's legal team. So, our work is very often more transactional in the sense that we review contracts. Just like company lawyers, we don’t have a library with hundreds of books, although we always have access to the library of Quinz in case we need it.”

Bruno adds that the office is designed for paperless work. “So far, it’s going good,” laughs Rémy, “no one asked me to order a printer yet.” Instead of buying a printer, Ask Q wanted to see what happens if no printer is available. Yet another example of challenging the status quo and helping people adopt better habits.

Another difference between Ask Q and law firms following Rémy is that lawyers often work alone. Even in more extensive cases, they will divide the work, so you end up working independently. The consultants of Ask Q come to the office to work together and co-create to find new solutions for clients. The flow of information is conversational, less written.


An office built to grow with the team

Space Refinery first looked at what was available. “How do we reuse the building blocks we already have in this space, and how do we leave room for future changes? That’s how we approached this project”, summarizes Bruno. “For instance, we reused the movable partitions, simply reconfiguring them to match Ask Q’s needs.”

The challenge for Space Refinery was to create a modular space that could adapt to the evolving needs of a growing team. “Ask Q's way of working could change quickly, influenced by emerging technologies and countless other things. We tried to keep that key idea in mind as we researched the team’s needs, and it definitely influenced the design process”, adds Bruno.


Ask Q moved in!

In February 2022, the team moved in. Everyone was impressed with the result. Even the colleagues who worried about noise confirmed that it is not a problem. And it is still getting better because we need to add some finishing touches like decorations!

Quiz: the meeting room names.

The meeting rooms at Ask Q have names from famous game-changers throughout history. Not the usual suspects but people who made a difference. Do you know them all?

- Dick Fosbury
- Rosa Parks
- Alan Turing
- Michael Jordan
- Frida Kahlo

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