City of London law firms are moving offices at an unprecedented rate as they battle to lure staff with premises boasting yoga studies, nail bars and beehives.
Law firms took a record 1.5 million square feet of space in London in 2022, 95 per cent of which was new or comprehensively refurbished, according to estate agency Knight Frank.
Reed Smith, Clifford Chance, Addleshaw Goddard and Squire Patton Boggs were among those leasing new London offices with extensive facilities.
Many firms are reducing floor space following a shift towards hybrid working but also want to use their headquarters to attract staff in an increasingly competitive recruitment market, and persuade existing lawyers to return to the office.
Research from estate agency Cushman & Wakefield showed that staff now care as much about what their workplace is like and where it is as they do about pay.
Rob Shooter, managing partner at law firm Fieldfisher, said: “We want [to make offices] more enticing than working from home, and landlords have picked up on that.”
“We’ve been shown places with free hiring of Brompton [bicycles], yoga studios, and if I hear the phrase ‘Ottolenghi-style brasserie’ one more time I might kill someone.”
One property agent showed him an office with a wormery composting system on its terrace, and several with beehives and nail bars.
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Another law firm, Reed Smith, is moving from its City base at the top of Broadgate Tower to Blossom Yard & Studios, a refurbished 1890s warehouse building in Spitalfields.
“It’s more open plan, there’s a collaboration space which includes tables with lots of tech on them, a kitchen area that’s a destination point, with sofas and a TV. We’ve all gathered there to watch the World Cup ... It gets people in,” said Tamara Box, the firm’s managing partner for Europe and the Middle East.
“We’ve been very happy in the tower but the way we work has changed.”
Reed Smith has said its new office could generate modest cost savings over the long term.
Nicola Gillen, from Cushman, said reducing emissions was also a crucial factor for firms looking for new premises. She said the law firms the agency was working with had “quite aggressive” emissions-cutting targets. “Their offices are a big part of that.”
She added: “I don’t think wormeries and beehives [alone] are going to cut it with the younger generations ... People are coming in to see other people, they’re not coming in for doughnuts or beehives.”
A shift to working from home during the pandemic has also reduced the space that law firms need. In its most recent annual results, listed law firm DWF said up to a third of its global office space was “potentially surplus to requirements post-Covid”.
The firm said it could save about £7 million (€7.9m) annually as a result over the medium term.
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Clifford Chance will be downsizing when it moves from its Canary Wharf skyscraper to a smaller base in the City of London.
The firm at present occupies about 440,000sq ft of a sprawling 700,000sq ft office, with a swimming pool, dry cleaners and an on-site hairdresser. It will take 321,100sq ft when it moves into 2 Aldermanbury Square at the end of its lease in 2028. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023