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Magic moves – Freshfields signs 20-year lease with Bishopsgate move set for 2021

With the exception of Clifford Chance recently rearranging its deckchairs in Canary Wharf, it has been years since one of London’s elite law firms signed on for a new office but Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has today (15 February) confirmed its long-awaited departure from Fleet Street for 100 Bishopsgate.

The Magic Circle firm has signed a pre-let agreement taking on a 20-year lease from 2021, although Freshfields still has the flexibility to vary the level of space before its move-in date. It will initially take on 12 floors of the 37 storey building, giving it 255,000 square feet, as expected reducing its London real estate by roughly a third.

Having been on Fleet Street for almost 30 years, Freshfields began assessing its options early last year and had considered subletting part of its current premises. The firm whittled its shortlist to two locations around July, with 60-70 St Mary Axe the second option. The firm had been expected to opt for Bishopsgate since late last year.

Freshfields currently occupies 221,000 square feet at its Fleet Street base with an additional 150,000 square feet at its nearby 28 Tudor Street offices. 100 Bishopsgate is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

London managing partner Julian Long said: ‘We have taken a long-term lease at 100 Bishopsgate, underlining our commitment to our successful London office.’

Long told Legal Business: ‘I’m very happy with the space we’ve taken and there is some helpful optionality that I think is too far away [to be definitive on]. The new building will be more efficient. We’ve obviously moved some people to Manchester but it’s not around cost saving.’

The City move comes amid a period of change for the 274-year-old firm’s operational agenda. Freshfields opened the doors to its low-cost Manchester services hub in July 2015. Later that year, the firm selected a permanent location, One New Bailey, located by Spinningfields in Salford, doubling the size of its current office to 80,000 square feet. It is expected to move into the new premises next year. In April, the firm confirmed it would open a second low-cost hub. At the time Freshfields chose Vancouver, Canada as its favoured location.

Other firms on the move include Ashurst, which is to relocate its entire London operation to 1-10 Brushfield Street in Spitalfields in 2019. On a 20-year lease, Ashurst will take up the entire office space, around 275,000 square feet, in the London Fruit & Wool Exchange when the building is completed.