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Law office design yields ‘place of calm, restoration’

Dan Emerson//March 21, 2023//

An interior stairwell and elevator to the side with a reception desk, upholstered in butterscotch-colored leather.

An interior stairwell and elevator connect the two levels of TSR Injury Law’s new office in Bloomington. A centerpiece of the lower level is the reception desk, upholstered in butterscotch-colored leather. (Photo: Corey Gaffer Photography)

Law office design yields ‘place of calm, restoration’

Dan Emerson//March 21, 2023//

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When TSR Injury Law managing partner Steve Terry saw the proposed layout and look of the firm’s new offices in Bloomington, it triggered an emotional memory. Terry thought back to 1997, when he started his first firm, Terry & Associates, in the basement of a suburban office building. As he was a startup entrepreneur, the out-of-the-way space was all he could afford at the time.

The new home TSR moved into last year at 8300 Norman Center Drive represents the end of a basement-to top floor journey, and a new beginning.

Rapid growth in recent years eventually made TSR’s previous space in the Minnesota Center at 494 and France — which had served the firm well for a time — too small for its needs.

“The layout of the space was a long ‘L’,” Terry recalled. “We started at the bottom of the L and kept expanding around the corner and down a long hallway.” After several years of growth, the firm found itself with a space that “was not the best for communication and cohesiveness.”

After looking for the right space for more than a year, TSR found the building-top space, overlooking Normandale Lake.

“Coming out of COVID, we had to find a location that would allow us to ‘do’ our vision,” Terry recalled. “We got lucky with the top 2 floors.”

The move to new space provided the opportunity to start fresh, and TSR took advantage of it, with the help of Minneapolis-based Studio BV owner Betsy Vohs and BV senior interior designer Ashley Lundgren.

A conference space and large employee lunchroom with stools near a bench
The 12th floor features conference space and a “huge” employee lunchroom that doubles as an in-house event center. (Photo: Corey Gaffer Photography)

The designers made the most of the 12th floor’s unusual floor plan, with less available space than a thriving law firm would normally have, Vohs said.

“We couldn’t put offices on the first [12th] floor, so that became a part-reception area and part-employee break area. In my career, I had never done a front reception area that is also a break room.” But with abundant sunlight streaming in from above, the space worked.

“We had to put all of the offices on the top [13th] floor,” Vohs said. “From a ‘flow’ standpoint that is unusual, but it fit the team-based values of TSR. From an employee perspective, it’s a great place to work, and really reflects their culture.”

“Our design goal for this project was about creating a space that is light-filled and a feeling of comfort for both staff and clients,” Vohs said. Unlike some imposing law firm offices, “the design is not about intimidation, it’s about craft and details. This quiet confidence is reflected in the softness of the space and the warmth of the light.”

The goal was to develop a space that would be “more collaborative,” Terry said, and also be welcoming, warm and comfortable for TSR’s personal injury clients and its 50 employees.

“When we got the design professionals involved, they gave us two very distinctive ideas, and we went with a much lighter type of décor,” with abundant natural light streaming through full-length widows and what may be the building’s most striking feature, a skylight in the middle of the floor.

Shades of blue replaced the old space’s “beige on beige” color scheme, and lighter wood instead of dark wood of the kind traditionally associated with law firms. “And there is real art on the walls, “ instead of the sports memorabilia and other items that made the old space look “like a bunch of guys [the attorneys] designed it,” Terry said.

Studio BV owner Betsy Vohs says that, unlike some imposing law firm offices, the design of the new TSR Injury Law office exudes a “quiet confidence” that is “reflected in the softness of the space and the warmth of the light.” (Photo: Corey Gaffer Photography)

The firm moved in after a roughly eight-month-long build-out, taking a 10-year lease on the space, which he considers unique. “Overall, the new offices have a completely different ‘feel,” Terry said.

One unusual (for a law firm office) feature is the glowing, electric fireplace that welcomes visitors to the 12th floor reception area. Another centerpiece is the gracefully curving reception desk, upholstered in butterscotch-colored leather. The 12th floor also features conference space  and a “huge” employee lunchroom that doubles as an in-house event center. It has multiple refrigerators,  a marble-topped center island, and bar.

TSR occupies about a third of the 12th floor and all of the top floor. An interior stairwell and elevator connect the two levels.

Taking advantage of the top-floor location, the 13th-floor conference room is bathed in natural light from a skylight.

Another unusual feature is a “wellness room” with chairs, refrigerator, sink and TV, where employees can take a break. It can also provide a private space for nursing mothers.

“We wanted to give our employees a space where they would enjoy coming to work, and also create a community,” Terry said.

The designers helped TSR craft “a place of calm and restoration” for TSR’s clients, Vohs said.

One design goal for TSR Injury Law’s office was to develop a space that would be “more collaborative,” managing partner Steve Terry said. (Photo: Corey Gaffer Photography)

“Our business is helping injured people who have been hurt by the negligence of others,  so by definition, when clients call us they are not in a good mood,” Terry said.  “Something bad has happened, and our job is try to make it better and guide them through the legal process. Part of that is the initial meetings.

“We wanted to create a very welcoming environment which really puts them at ease if they are a little nervous. And a nice office means we have successfully represented other clients and gives them confidence we can do well for them.”

“It’s  place of calm and restoration, for TSR’s clients,” Vohs said.

Beyond the aesthetic elements, the TSR office’s most unusual feature might be the mock courtroom where TSR trial attorneys can rehearse their openings and closings, direct and cross-examinations, in front of mock juries.

“We try a lot of cases against insurance companies. It’s a place where we can hone their abilities and train them to be more successful,” Terry added.

“We finally had the opportunity to create a space that really fits what we wanted,” Terry said. “They showed us options and then made it happen.”

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