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When he was finishing high school in the early 1980s, Andrew Cunningham wanted to be an architect. His father, an architect himself, talked him out of it, saying “architects are the first in and first out in a recession”. A graduate of St Leo’s College, Wahroonga, he enrolled in economics/law at Sydney University. He landed a summer clerkship at Minter Simpson and Co, which then had about 12 partners, and recalls that each of their names, as well as those of the senior associates, that were on the firm’s letterhead. Cunningham went on to build a practice in employment and industrial relations law by which stage the firm had nationalised and named Minter Ellison. In 2007 he was made managing partner of the Sydney office. A year ago, Cunningham took on the role of Innovations and Networks Leader and among his projects was the multi-million dollar build of the firm’s new workplace in Sydney which now has 70 partners and 500 staff. Colours, fabrics, surfaces, health and safety and renovation budgets became part of his daily work. The result is an impressive eight-floor office with a Scandinavian-style interior design and an open staircase with views over Government House to Sydney Harbour. In mid-May, staff moved into the Governor Macquarie Tower in what used to be the offices of Premier and Cabinet. Cunningham tells JANE SOUTHWARD about the project closest to his heart.

Our overall objective is to be our clients’ best partner. Clients have confirmed to us that they don’t want to see something overly swanky. They want to see lawyers who have space that is appropriate and efficient, and facilities that are directed to making their interactions with us more valuable.

We have fewer offices and fewer closed doors. It is principally open plan. Clients come in here and are immediately connected with our workspace. They can see into it and are actually connected to it. We do believe that collaboration and connectivity are really important for lawyers as well as everyone else. Connecting is good for their work and their well-being.

We have been paid the ultimate compliment already by someone who has told us this doesn’t look like a law firm.

Simply because we are one of the most recent refits and we have had the opportunity to learn from others, I am reasonably confident in saying our new office design is best practice.

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