CC has designs on its offices

CLIFFORD Chance has used three-dimensional "space management" software to plot its office layout. The package is also being used to help the firm pilot a project to set up ten-lawyer "team rooms" at its City premises.

The practice is the first UK firm to use Visual Technology's FM Focus software to work out the best way of using office space.

The £50,000 software package shows the layout of the office and what facilities and space are available, down to the exact shapes and sizes of the desks and the distance to the nearest fire extinguisher.

Head of services Keith Toms said the firm recently analysed lawyers' time-sheets and discovered that they spent more than half their day away from their desks. Consequently, since June it had been piloting a redesigned office where lawyers sit in teams of ten rather than two.

Toms said the aim of using FM Focus was to "maximise efficiency from the 483,000 square footage we are renting for our 2,000 staff".

He said information about its offices was stored in the package's database. Rooms could then be depicted on-screen and users could click on them to find out information such as who worked in each room, their telephone number and the size of their desk.

Toms said the technology allowed users "to see alternative layouts to find the one most cost-effective and compatible with staff". He said it could also be used for overseas offices if a disk with the appropriate data was provided.

IT marketing director Bernard Barnet said the product suited large companies because it did not rely on a central database. This meant departments could input information independently.