Washington Lawyer - April/May 2018 - 16
"We're in a thriving new neighborhood, blocks from the District and federal
courthouses. We want to open up our arms and say, 'Hey, everybody! Come
on in! This is your dues hard at work.'"
In the past, Spagnoletti says, the Bar was "kind of a closed environment.
People would come to us for a particular thing, but nobody was just dropping
by to say hi." But the new headquarters beckons to members to visit, spend
time in its friendly, accessible spaces, and connect with others. The building's
features include multiple indoor and outdoor lounge areas, collaborative workspaces, flexible conference rooms, space for a ground-floor restaurant, and
rooftop terrace with stunning city views.
"If you're a D.C. Bar member from out of town and you need to meet with
somebody in town right now, you're either renting a room in a hotel or a conference room, or you're begging off a friend at a big law firm. Don't do that! Call
us up. Just say, 'Do you have an office available between 1 and 3 p.m.? Or a
conference room that I can use?' If it's empty, you're free to use it."
With one caveat: Spagnoletti jokes that he can't promise he won't press visiting
Bar members into taking a pro bono case.
More than just the ideal place for members to interact and connect, the
new building reflects the needs of a changing legal profession, says Victor L.
Velazquez, former D.C. Bar chief operating officer who, despite joining the
Maryland State Bar Association as executive director in 2016, remained on hand
to help orchestrate the efforts to construct the Bar's new headquarters. "D.C. Bar
members are dispersed among 50 states and more than 80 different countries.
They needed a home."
The challenge of building the new Bar headquarters was creating not
just physical meeting spaces, but virtual ones as well. "It's a credit to
Bob Spagnoletti for having the vision to see what the space could be,"
When Spagnoletti came on board in May 2017, construction of the building
was underway. But he saw potential with open walls, before cable had been
laid yet, to take the Bar to a new level of technological sophistication -
a building with a "super-smart core."
"As long as you get the core right, then everything else follows thereafter,"
Spagnoletti says. "Things get exponentially more expensive [to upgrade]
once you close up the walls."
This realization required an extra $4.5 million of investment that the
Building Advisory Task Force, and then the Board of Governors, had to
approve, but the result is a state-of-the-art broadcast studio that gives
the Bar the ability to livestream events from conferencing and classroom
space. "You can be virtually connected to what the Bar is doing,"
Spagnoletti says. "Participate in a program from Seoul! As a member
of the Taxation Community, or the International Law Community, [or]
the IP Community, you can virtually participate in a program wherever
The original designs for a broadcast studio were modest. But soon the
Board realized that without much more expense, they could create a
control room and "literally wire everything in the building. It created huge
opportunities," Spagnoletti says.
"So, now there are 27 spaces where we can do live and recorded programming simultaneously," including the rooftop terrace.