Spokane Journal of Business

Paine Hamblen accelerates major office remodel

Paine Hamblen accelerates major office remodel

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-Natasha Nellis
Paine Hamblen LLP managing partner Scott Cifrese says the firm decided to take on the $1.7 million remodel while many of its employees are working from home.

Spokane-based law firm Paine Hamblen LLP has started a two-phase renovation project at its offices in the Washington Trust Bank building downtown, that firm representatives say will allow for more collaboration.

The remodel has been several years in the making, says firm partner Eric Sachtjen, but was accelerated when restrictions imposed to stem the flow of COVID-19 closed the doors to nonessential businesses statewide.

“We decided to do the remodel previous to the incidence of COVID-19, and maybe that’s the only blessing we’ve gotten from COVID-19 where we’ve had the vast majority of our personnel located outside of the office,” he says.

Though many staff members are working remotely, the firm has 36 people based at its headquarters, 23 of whom are attorneys. The company has brought on three new associates since December.

The project originally was going to be a three-phase endeavor, as it spanned the two floors the firm occupies in the building at 717 W. Sprague. It involves a nearly complete remodel of the spaces, and employees would have needed to be able to shift from floor to floor during construction.

The new space has been designed to increase the technological capabilities of the office and make the space more modern and functional, Sachtjen says.

To that end, each meeting space will be outfitted with televisions mounted on the walls to enable more collaborative capabilities, such as video conferencing with those outside the office or giving presentations to clients, Sachtjen says.

“This would be a major remodel in order to bring it up to what a modern law office would look like in the design,” he says, with updates to technology and meeting places to improve both client interactions and experience.

Managing partner Scott Cifrese adds that the firm had to modify its original designs when the pandemic hit. The design now includes a reduced number of desks and cubicles to create distance between workspaces and as well as a new locker room, where employees who use the firm’s coworking spaces can store their equipment at the end of the day.

“We haven’t had a major remodel since the early 2000s,” he says. “Technology just seems to get better and better, and as we utilize it more and more, we started looking at how we can make our space better … we just decided we were ready to pull the trigger.”

Walls throughout the office, including those between cubicles, have been raised in height to 6 feet to add an extra measure of protection for employees, Sachtjen says. Glass panes are inlaid into those walls to allow for more light, he adds.

In total, the firm occupies just under 18,200 square feet on the 12th and 14th floors of the Washington Trust building.

Spokane-based Yost Gallagher Construction LLC is the general contractor on the $1.7 million project. Design Source, also of Spokane, is providing interior design work. Work on the first phase of the project has started and is expected to wrap in November. Overall, the entire project is expected to be completed by March, says Sachtjen, though he contends the end date is a moving target.

COVID-19 has caused disruptions in practically every aspect of life, including manufacturing and shipping of materials for construction projects such as this, he explains.

“The timeline is fluid dependent upon when supplies can be delivered,” he says.

Sachtjen adds that the pandemic has led to an accelerated project timeline, as several tenants within the Bank of America building have shifted to remote work, allowing for the contractor to work during the day without concern about disrupting the operations of other companies in the building, he says.

Paine Hamblen was established over 110 years ago. It has offices in Spokane and in the Tri-Cities, Washington, area. The Spokane-based attorneys rotate shifts in the Tri-Cities office, says Cifrese.

The firm primarily serves the Inland Northwest, but works on cases across the western U.S.

“We’re a full-service law firm,” Cifrese says. “We handle just about everything.”

The pair decline to disclose annual revenue but say that prior to the pandemic it was trending above its 2019 revenue. The firm took a slight hit when COVID-19 spread here, and currently is about on par with last year’s revenue, Sachtjen says.

“It’s our hope that it gets above flat (at year’s end),” he adds, though he notes it will be dependent largely on the actions of the state and local governments, and what further restrictions are lifted in the coming months.

Most of the firm’s staff was working remotely prior to the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy mandate that shuttered several businesses in the state, Sachtjen says. Since some restrictions were lifted, the firm has brought a limited number of staff back onsite, he adds, though its management team is largely still working remotely.

“We’d all love to be back in to work at some point here,” he says. “And if that’s the middle of next year, maybe it’s the middle of next year.”

Natasha Nellis
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Reporter Natasha Nellis joined the Journal in May 2018 and covers real estate and construction. Natasha is an avid reader and loves taking photos, traveling, and learning new languages.

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