Canadian Lawyer Magazine – Taking Feng Shui Seriously

Feng Shui Canadian Lawyer Magazine, February 2000

Excerpts from “Taking Feng Shui Seriously” by Jim Middlemiss

Want to make more money, improve relations among partners and support staff or simply cut down the stress in you life?  Then maybe you need to stop consulting the management and marketing gurus and start taking the advice of a feng shui expert.  That’s what the lawyers at [firm name withheld] decided to do when their lease expired and they moved into new offices.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that feng shui has helped significantly,” says [name withheld] Partner ‘A’, who practices family law.  “We work more productively, more profitably and enjoy the work more.”

“Its’ improved business,” chimes in Partner ’B’ [name withheld], who handles the corporate commercial work in the firm.  “We came from a negative situation where there were problems with the landlord.  We felt it was necessary to go with something totally different to give us that cleaner state of mind.”

And they found that in feng shui (pronounced fung shway), the ancient oriental art of object placement and environmental design.  It’s been practiced in Asia for more than 4,000 years, originally by emperors.  The goal is to create an ideal environment that allows energy, known as qi (chi), to flow and create harmony and balance between the lawyer and his or her environment.

By rearranging elements of an office, such as desks, columns, walls and lighting, you can create a more positive work environment.  Experts say feng shui environments can do everything from helping to create wealth, enhance a career and improve relationships or health.

In [firm name withheld’s] case, the firm decided to move out of older office space in a neighbourhood that had changed over the time the firm had resided there and no longer matched its ideal client.

The firm had found office space and had a draft floor plan from the landlord’s space planner.  The firm contacted Malca Narrol who “ripped it apart.”

One of the biggest problems was that all the desks were facing the wall, she says.  “Nobody was facing out” into the office.  That’s not ideal because “you can’t see what’s coming ahead.  All these people have their backs to the action.  It’s easy to get stressed every time your boss comes into your office.”

The lawyers’ backs were also to a window, which she says was no good because the lawyers had “no backing, no support.  A lot of what we do in feng shui is help people sit in a good position.  That helps you think creatively,” she says.

She made sure that both lawyers were sitting with their backs to a wall to give them “maximum support” and so they could look out the exterior and into the interior of the office.  That gave them “the biggest possible vision, the most comfort, stability, control and the most inspiration.”

Another issue was that the firm’s previous boardroom had an odd angular shape to it. The firm had a customized pentagonal boardroom table that it wanted to use in its new space, which was going to be less than the firm had in its previous building.  As such, it had designed a separate boardroom, meaning that office spaces were smaller.

Narrol says the boardroom table had to go.  Partner ‘A” [name withheld], who also does family mediations, says he learned that the sharp, angular design of the table was actually impeding his mediation work and his attempt to get settlements.  “With all those edges, what I began to realize was that I was working against myself.  It was the wrong environment.”

In fact, Narrol suggested eliminating the boardroom entirely and turning it into a file and photocopier/fax room.  That allowed the office cubicles to be enlarged and chairs were redirected so that as many staff as possible face outwards into the office.

That also allowed the lawyers’ offices to be expanded and extended across the full distance of the back wall, where the external windows are located.  Conference tables were added to each office that would comfortably seat four people, eliminating the need for the boardroom.

The lawyer’s offices were also personally designed to reflect their own experience and each space in an archetype.

Partner ‘A’, whose clientele includes Spanish-speaking Canadians, scrapped his old desk and opted for a rounded model that sat unused in their old offices.  One wall now includes his credentials, such as his degrees and law certificates.

He also has South American art and statues strategically placed in his office.  On the back wall, family photos hang featuring his spouse and children.  Narrol calls it “the family area” and it serves two purposes: it provides him with inspiration and shows his clients his “family and the people he supports in other communities around the world.”

He also sits in a high back chair, which provides him with backdrop support and represents mountains.

As for Partner B’s office, “we have a mountain behind (him) and some serenity,” she says on a tour of his office.  His legal credentials are also stacked on the wall and the top of his bookshelf reflects a “life’s journey,” she says, with photos and mementos lined up along it.

Another problem with the original design was that the room was cluttered with sharp angles. One rule of feng shui, Narrol says, is to “not contort your body.  You need to be comfortable and relaxed and let your energy flow when you walk through a space.  You want to avoid hitting yourself on sharp corners.”   They create tension which leads to illness, she adds.

The square columns dotting the office had a trim added to them to reduce the angles on the corners.  As well, the original design had a bowling alley-like hallway running directly from the front reception area to a back window.  That allowed energy to enter and quickly escape the office, Narrol says.  It was remedied by redesigning the space to add a block that directed the energy into the room.

Narrol, a graduate architect who took up feng shui consulting 15 years ago, explains that “any business needs a good entrance.  Entrances bring in energy, bring in money and bring in clients.  It needs to feel open and be welcoming and set the theme for who we are.”

As to the cost, Partner ‘A’ says it’s the same as hiring any professional and the cost of running a business. “…The fees were worth it…”


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