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Clifford Chance Wants A New 400K SF HQ. Is That Good Or Bad For The Market?

10 Upper Bank Street in Canary Wharf (tall building to the right).

Magic circle global law firm Clifford Chance is scouring options for a new HQ that could total 400K SF, one of the largest single office requirements in London right now. So what does that mean for London’s leasing market?

The firm appointed Cushman & Wakefield to advise it on options ahead of a lease break in 2028 and is looking at options on the Southbank, in the City and elsewhere in Canary WharfEstates Gazette reported. It could also stay in its current HQ at 10 Upper Bank Street. The building is owned by a joint venture between insurance company China Life and Qatar Holdings, which paid £795M for it in 2014. 

On the one hand, the fact that an occupier like Clifford Chance is on the hunt for up to 400K SF in London is a sign that big companies will commit to large leasing deals. 

On the other hand, a 400K SF HQ would represent a 25% reduction on the 500K SF that the firm occupies at Upper Bank Street. This shrinking could become a major trend post-pandemic

Clifford Chance has in fact been reducing the space that it occupies in the building for some time. It originally leased about 900K SF in the 1M SF tower when it moved from the City in the early 2000s, but Deutsche Bank subleases 388K SF in the building from the law firm. EG reported that about 100K SF of the 500K SF it still leases is not in use. 

Like many big law firms, Clifford Chance is gearing up to offer its staff a hybrid working model, giving people the chance to split their time between home and the office on a fairly equal basis depending on their role.