CSG Law recently opened its new 120,000-square-foot office at 105 Eisenhower Parkway in Roseland, following five years of planning by firm leaders and other stakeholders. From left: executive committee members Frank Giantomasi, a member of the firm’s real estate, development and land use group; Patricia Costello, managing member; and Jeff Chiesa, a member of the firm’s litigation, corporate internal investigations and monitoring and white collar criminal defense groups. — Photo by Aaron Houston for Real Estate NJ
By Joshua Burd
In an office that seemingly wants for nothing, Frank Giantomasi points to one notable omission from CSG Law’s new state-of-the-art, 120,000-square-foot headquarters in Roseland.
“You’re not going to see a telephone anywhere in the office,” said Giantomasi, a firm leader and member of its real estate, development and land use group, noting that the practice abandoned landlines in favor of a Zoom platform.
“What that did was add to the mobility that we developed during the COVID experience,” he said. “Now you open your laptop, and not only do you have your desktop as if you were sitting at your desk, but now you have your Rolodex and you have the ability to call anyone. So you can be sitting in your hotel room at 4 in the morning in Rome, open up and say, ‘I’m live.’
“And we are finding that it works extraordinarily well.”
It’s among the many features, design choices and technology elements that are on display at CSG Law’s new space, at 105 Eisenhower Parkway, reflecting how the pandemic changed the workplace and made it essential to provide employees with flexibility. But Giantomasi notes that the office is more than five years in the making, well before the COVID-19 crisis, in an effort to help the firm compete for talent in the years to come.
The result? An office that’s meant to rival other modern corporate headquarters — even those outside the legal industry — with high-end furniture and construction materials, abundant connectivity and pantries with banquette seating and restaurant-grade venting. Not to mention more than 40 meeting spaces that are spread across the firm’s practice area floors and a central conference hub, which includes a hospitality-inspired event room, along with an IT lounge complete with ping pong and foosball tables.
“The motto was: We’re building an office for partners who haven’t even taken the bar yet,” said Giantomasi, who chaired the firm’s lease committee and spearheaded the move. “And that’s a big statement to try to put ourselves in the mindset of what somebody who is going to be a partner eight years from now or 10 years from now is going to want and need.”
CSG Law opened the office in January after a $30 million build-out, providing a new home for some 170 attorneys and 302 overall staff. The space is undoubtedly a statement for one of the state’s largest and most influential law firms, whose logo appears prominently on the building’s newly renovated façade. It also marks a new chapter for the practice formally known as Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC, which rebranded in 2015 from Wolff & Samson PC, after two decades at One Boland Drive in West Orange. It began to consider a move around 2018, when it assembled a roughly 20-member committee comprising a mix attorneys and administrators, which pondered everything from office furniture to creating an event space that would “wow” guests and clients.
“What we felt was that we were building an office for everybody, so we had just as much input from hospitality as we had from litigation, which is our biggest single group in the office,” Giantomasi said.
Early on, the firm tapped longtime client SJP Properties and Gensler to help guide the design and preconstruction process, which would be upended by the pandemic in early 2020.
“From Day 1, they were with us every step of the way, so we had ideas of what we were going to do,” said Matt Beck, an executive committee member, who chairs CSG’s litigation and white collar defense and investigations groups. “Then COVID hit, so we had to pivot and re-evaluate everything we were thinking. We stayed with this building, but made some tweaks as a result of it.”
The pandemic’s impact is evident throughout the office, from the emphasis on mobility to the ease with which attorneys and staff can connect to Zoom inside any of its dozens of conference spaces. There’s also advanced HEPA air filtration systems, plus new outdoor space and additional entrances that are accessible to only employees.
But it also reflects many of the modern design concepts that had taken hold in the office sector well before COVID, as well as the firm’s own changing philosophy. Light and air is abundant throughout, thanks in part to its large windows and the building’s 40-foot-tall atrium. Giantomasi also notes that lawyers and staffers have sit-stand desks, while every office has dimmer switches to account for individual lighting preferences.
Meantime, CSG has done away with the kinds of large filing cabinets that were once a hallmark of law offices. Attorneys now have everything they need on their laptops, Giantomasi said, while they’re able to work comfortably off the 38-inch, curved monitors that can be found throughout the space. Team members can also reserve any of the meeting areas from their smart phone, their laptop or the tablets that are mounted in each space.
Giantomasi expanded on several other key features during a recent tour of the office, which has reinvigorated what was a largely vacant, 220,000-square-foot building just off Interstate 280.
Equality and efficiency
While opting to provide its lawyers with dedicated offices, the firm decided that each would be virtually identical in terms of size and furniture. Corner spaces that would historically go to senior-level attorneys are instead conference rooms and other common areas.
“We really do believe in the common good here,” said Giantomasi, also a member of the firm’s executive committee. “We really do believe that this is more of a corporate organization than a historical law office where you have these titans of business origination … We don’t have that game being played, so it was easy to figure out what we were going to do. And then we had to figure out how we were going to do it.”
Ultimately, the new office provided the firm with layouts that were more efficient than its previous home in West Orange — with available offices for those future partners.
“There’s a lot of efficiency that was created with the design, keeping offices one size and really streamlining that,” said Dawn Afanador, CSG Law’s chief marketing officer. “So as we were outgrowing West Orange, we moved in here with space to grow.”
Abundant meeting space
Visitors will enter the office through an expansive reception area, not far from a conference center with more than a dozen meeting spaces for attorneys and clients. Then comes the main event space that Giantomasi proudly calls the “hotel lobby,” with lounge furniture, bar-height tables and catering space. Next door is a main event room that serves as the firm’s town hall, one that’s large enough to accommodate its full workforce, with sliding accordion walls and full audio-video connectivity. It’s a solution for the many events and continuing education programs that CSG hosts, avoiding the need to rent a room at a hotel or restaurant.
“We really thought about larger meetings,” Giantomasi said. “The firm has grown dramatically now. We have 93 partners, so when we bring everybody together for a partners meeting, we need a big space.”
CSG confirmed the importance of having a dedicated conference center when it toured the nearby offices of Connell Foley LLP and Lowenstein Sandler LLP, which opened new spaces within the last six years, both in Roseland. For one thing, having an area that is separate and apart from workstations provides added security and protection from a public health standpoint. It also allows you to “dress for your day,” meaning attorneys who have no meetings scheduled can dress down without the prospect of running into a visitor.
Importantly, though, lawyers still have the benefit of conference and huddle rooms that are scattered throughout their practice area floors, allowing them to meet internally without entering the public-facing part of the office.
Replicating ‘work from home’
Among other considerations, Giantomasi said the office is meant to replicate the work-from-home experience. He points to the sofas, countertops and other less traditional furniture throughout the building that are meant to provide a change of scenery from individual work areas. There’s also what CSG refers to as its tech lounge — a space where team members can grab a cup of coffee and play a game of ping pong while getting their laptop fixed.
While there is still work to be done, Giantomasi believes the creature comforts have appealed to those who still spend significant time working remotely.
“I think it’s accelerating the return to the office,” Giantomasi said during the tour in early March. “It’s not happening yet, but we’ve seen an uptick.”