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London’s Law Firms Start To Work Out Their Future Office Needs

10 Upper Bank Street, where Clifford Chance has its HQ

Law firms are a key part of London’s office leasing market, taking about 500K SF on average, year in, year out, according to Devono Cresa. And some of the biggest names in the sector are slowly limbering up to decide how much office space they are going to need in the future and where it is going to be. 

Addleshaw Goddard has appointed JLL to review its options and potentially find a new office of up to 200K SF ahead of a lease expiry in 2024, React News reported. The company currently occupies 202K SF in the Milton Gate building in the City of London, so in theory the company is not looking to downsize significantly. It could still stay in its current building, React said.

Last week, Clifford Chance appointed Cushman & Wakefield to review its London property strategy, ahead of a lease expiry in 2028. The company occupies about 600K SF in the 1M SF 10 Upper Bank Street office tower in Canary Wharf.

“We have learned a lot over the course of the pandemic about the importance of the workplace experience to our culture, our colleagues and our clients,” Clifford Chance UK Managing Partner Michael Bates said in a statement. “With so many leaps forward in what is possible, and with clients based right across London, it is particularly important that we think seriously about the 'where' and 'how' of the future of our London space in the longer term.”

The market will watch with interest whether Clifford Chance decides to relocate. When it moved to Canary Wharf from the City in 2003 it was seen as a bold move not to be in the Square Mile.

Law firms with a big presence in London have been putting in place new strategies for adapting how their staff work in the wake of the pandemic. Both Freshfields and Linklaters have told staff that they can work from home half of the time in future, as long as they keep their clients happy. 

Elsewhere, some law firms are upsizing while others are contracting their office space. U.S. firm Latham & Watkins has agreed to pre-lease 200K SF of 1 Leadenhall Street in the City, a move that will allow developer Brookfield to kick-start development of the 681K SF scheme. It previously occupied 136K SF at 99 Bishopsgate.

On the other hand, Baker McKenzie last month cut the amount of space it plans to lease in the redevelopment of 280 Bishopsgate from 153K SF to 130K SF.