Cleveland Calling

Zashin & Rich works to the beat of its own drum

Published in 2017 Ohio Super Lawyers — January 2017

When you hear the word “punk,” a law firm probably doesn’t spring to mind, but Zashin & Rich hopes to change that. As Stephen Zashin says, “We’re not your father’s law firm.” 

Except in the literal sense. Stephen and Andrew Zashin’s father co-founded the firm with Lawrence Rich in 1981. In June 2014, the firm took over the fourth floor of the Ernst & Young Tower in Cleveland’s Flats. “It was a blank space and a blank canvas, basically,” Stephen says. 

They worked with design firm Vocon to fill that canvas. The Zashins wanted a unique space that would meet the very different needs of its attorneys and clients. The boutique has 25 attorneys in its Cleveland office, as well as three in Columbus. Stephen heads labor and employment, while Andrew handles family law: international, as well as complex, high-net-worth cases.

“Lawyers often talk about collaboration, but then you look at these firms and there aren’t any collaborative spaces,” Stephen says. Since their work involves groups, the design had to foster teamwork. Their “war rooms,” used in preparation for trial, are filled with dry-erase glass and white boards for sussing out cases. 

“In a given family law situation, we could have property division, spousal support and children’s issues,” Andrew says. “So the room allows us to work the file in separated areas, and have the space to break it down visually.” 

The Zashins took it a step further by making offices without doors. There was some concern about concentration, “so we added white noise,” Stephen says. “It deadens everything. So if someone’s on a conference call, I don’t hear it, but someone can come into my office for a conversation at any moment.”

Their clients, of course, require privacy, so while the attorney workspace is open, client areas are not. But the office does have open areas for receiving and entertaining clients. The waiting area streams music videos and live performances to put people at ease. “Have you ever been to a dentist’s office and you have to wait a few minutes?” asks Stephen. “We wanted to make a more lively environment so you’re not stressed out.” 

There’s a media room where children—or grown-ups—can watch movies, snack and be entertained. There’s a bar area, where employees and clients can grab some coffee, soda or—after the business day—an alcoholic beverage. There’s also an in-house café. “We eat together,” Stephen notes. “There’s sort of a segregation that still remains at law firms between the staff and lawyers, partners and associates, and we’ve torn those walls down.”

He adds, “I was really attracted to an homage to Cleveland, the home of rock ‘n’ roll.” That’s when he began to reflect on the first album he ever bought: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

“I remember going to the record store and buying the cassette tape because I was really drawn to the color: that acid yellow and bubblegum pink,” he recalls. “As you look back, that came out in the ’70s, but it’s still really relevant; you can look at the pastels of the ’80s and grunge of the ’90s—and all the things that have come and gone, but punk still exists and represents that counter-culture. It’s a way of expressing who we are and what we do.”

The rock influence is clear, from the bust of Shakespeare painted to look like KISS to the wall of LED-colorized drum heads to the bowl of brown-free M&Ms in the kitchen. The office is filled with shots of Ohio venues ranging from Cleveland Municipal Stadium and Blossom Music Center to Peabody’s and the Grog Shop. The design has received awards from the Commercial Real Estate Development Association and International Interior Design Association. 

Andrew credits his brother with executing the firm’s vision. “In terms of culture, it’s brought us closer,” he notes. “It has enhanced our friendships and collegiality, and also furthers our ability to serve our clients.” 

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