LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

Making an art of in-house work

Want to dance?

Take a stroll through the lobby of the new Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, which opened in November 2019. Called the Oculus, the 140-foot-wide, multi-story atrium merges music, lighting, theater, technology and architecture to create an immersive experience.

LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

Oculus | Photo credit: Ryan Fischer

Before you get to the elevators or the casino, the show begins with a multi-story plume of water that jets up from the center of a fountain before cascading back down through auras of blue, red and green. Guests of all ages dance, surrounded by walls of lively videos, ever changing from abstract to nature.

It’s the kind of innovative welcome the Rockwell Group and its experience design studio, the LAB, have specialized in for more than a decade, says LeAnn Shelton, the company’s general counsel and director of business affairs.

LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

LeAnn Shelton | Chief Legal Officer | Rockwell Group

“We take our immersive design experience and bring that mindset to other environments,” Shelton says. “The ‘guest experience’ is now a part of the design process for all types of projects, from hospitals, to stores and stadiums. It’s all about the person using the space.”

Verve and color

Based in New York, and founded by the award-winning architect David Rockwell, Rockwell Group’s globe-spanning clientele includes everything from hotels and theaters to cultural facilities to hospitals and schools. With offices in Madrid and Los Angeles, its work includes product lines for companies such as Knoll International and award-winning set designs for Broadway shows that tour the world.

The LAB’s projects go from hotels to holidays, including the Spectacle at MGM Cotai in Macau and Luminaries, which wishes season’s greetings to all at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place in Manhattan.

LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

Photo credit: Arbuckle Industries

It’s not just the Oculus that stands out at the Hard Rock. Press that elevator button—only it’s not really an elevator door that opens. Instead, it’s a 3D tour through the history of rock ‘n’ roll including John Lennon’s guitar, steampunk animation and abstract images of rock legends.

“This is a company that prides itself on pushing boundaries,” Shelton says. “We embrace aesthetics and approaches that help set our clients apart from the pack.”

Interactive media is now an established part of Rockwell Group’s repertoire, she adds, and it’s her job to ensure being set apart from the pack also passes local building codes and does not violate intellectual property rights.

Making movies

As both a licensed attorney and a registered architect, Shelton understands how to frame Rockwell Group’s design approach to meet the clients’ needs and the legal requirements.

It took some fancy legal footwork to make the LAB’s greeting to visitors to the Cosmopolitan to come to life with 384 frameless screens in the lobby. Equipped with LCDs, mirrors and sensors, the video displays came alive with dancers, animated by the movement of anyone passing through.

LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

Cosmopolitan | Photo credit: courtesy of Cosmopolitan

Shelton drafted the architectural design agreements as well as the contracts for choreographers, dancers and artists who made the show come to life.

With the legal foundations now firmly in place, Shelton remains an early participant in the client-servicing process. She reviews proposals to make sure the scope of work is accurate as well as projects when there are concerns about trademark, copyright and other potential intellectual property issues.

“It starts with the big idea and you take it right through,” Shelton says. “We’re helping the client realize what they want, and it’s important to have the proposal correct because it is the basis of the contract. Sometimes it’s as simple as checking the math.”

Sweating the small stuff

While Rockwell Group specializes in place-making on often grand scales, such as the Nobu Downtown, a 12,000-square-foot restaurant in a landmarked building in lower Manhattan, Shelton’s background as both and architect and attorney are integral in assuring the small details are covered.

“Sometimes my involvement, once the contract is signed, is approving additional services or checking building department applications. I don’t get involved with design decisions,” she says.

LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

Nobu Downtown | Photo credit: Eric Laignel

There are also times when codes and design decisions merge. At the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Bar, a three-level lounge that appears to float above the ground floor and is encased by Swarovski crystal filaments. Shelton worked with the design team to determine the right height to safely position the banquettes along the perimeter.

“My goal is to make people aware of safety issues of the larger context, not just simple code compliance,” Shelton says.

Artistic inspiration

In addition to her legal duties—structuring the relationship with clients, handling risk management, protecting intellectual property and product licensing—Shelton is involved with professional organizations including the American Institute of Architects and the Urban Land Institute.

She chairs the American Bar Association’s Arts and Museum Division, and recently integrated the legal and creative disciplines in a panel on Legal Framework of Art, Architecture and Urban Design in a legal symposium in Prague, Czech Republic.

LeAnn Shelton – Rockwell Group

Photo credit: courtesy of Cosmopolitan

“That was a huge hit. Lawyers love a presentation with pictures. It’s usually just a bunch of citations on a white screen,” Shelton says.

In fact, the artistic side is what emerged first for the Hawaiian-born Shelton, who moved to New York with her family when she was in first grade. Her parents built a modern house in Riverdale and filled it with Saarinen tables and Barcelona chairs. The inspiration for her bedroom was a room in the Miller House by Alexander Girard that she saw in an old issue of House and Garden.

She graduated Amherst College with a double major in history and ancient Greek before earning her J.D. at Columbia Law School. Because she’s as artistic as she is analytical, Shelton returned to Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation to earn her master’s in architecture. She teaches classes on professional practice at Columbia, as well as the New York Institute of Technology.

Before joining Rockwell Group, Shelton was an associate principal at Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, and an associate partner at Davis Brody Bond.

It was the lure of innovation and legal stewardship that drew her to Rockwell Group.

“We have a ton of creative energy. We’re eclectic and very curious and have redefined what an architecture firm can do,” Shelton says.

Published on: March 26, 2020



Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.


It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.


Spring III 2024



  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.