Take up might be increasing but London’s law firms are downsizing. That’s according to the latest report from CBRE which found that the take up of office space by law firms in London was up 60% in 2013 compared with the previous year.
Mergers, acquisitions and consolidations among law firms were the key drivers for the increase in take up for a second consecutive year, which followed the all-time low this sector of the market reached in 2011.
While 2013 saw several relocations among law firms, the other key trend was downsizing. Even some of the largest deals saw firms reduce their office space. Switching to open-plan space was a popular move and is likely to remain so throughout 2014, not simply because it reduces the amount of space which firms need to take, but also because it increases the number of options available to them.
Availability is also likely to become a key issue in 2014, with CBRE observing that the supply of office space suitable for the legal sector has already reduced following the flurry of relocation activity in 2013.
In terms of location, Midtown and the City – the traditional choices of the legal sector – were popular options in 2013 and are likely to remain so throughout the year ahead. Both locations also offer a wide selection of premium flexible office space for those firms looking for a temporary or serviced option.
Probably the most sought-after property of 2013 was 78 Cannon Place. CMS Cameron McKenna finally secured the space, after entering into competitive bidding with Field Fisher Waterhouse. Meanwhile, another of the largest deals for the year saw Nabarro complete a move from Theobalds Road in Holborn to take up 130,000 sq ft of space in London Wall.
After missing out on Cannon Place and considering a number of other options in the City, Field Fisher Waterhouse bucked the trend and opted for London Bridge as the location of its new office. It will bring together staff from all three of its existing sites, reducing the overall amount of office space.
If CBRE’s predictions play out, we can look forward to more mergers, more relocations and a further increase in take up of office space among London’s legal firms in 2014.
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