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Will success of home-working prompt firms to rethink their plush City offices?

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Pandemic puts question mark over corporate law’s love-affair with swanky spaces

100 Bishopsgate, London (image credit: Buildington)

The global pandemic has forced City law firms to rethink how they operate.

Having embraced video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype, City outfits have attempted to bring an air of ‘keep calm, and carry on’ as they grapple with a financial headache reminiscent of the 2008 crash.

But will the adoption of remote working practices in response to the lockdown spark a wider change across the industry?

Global law firms are renowned for their plush offices. From marble-clad client areas to private penthouse-style pools, the trappings of life as a City lawyer can be — and are — a major pull for any young training contract hunter.

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In recent weeks, however, lawyers have been forced to abandon these lavish set-ups in favour of their dining room tables, studies, gardens and even their childhood bedrooms. The so-called ‘boomerangers’ as The Times today described those flocking back home to mum and dad amid the pandemic.

And this transition, on the whole, appears to have been fairly smooth, with social media awash with snaps of lawyers embracing their love for home-working. “My experience of working from home has been good so far,” one City trainee told us recently. “The firm has been very supportive and we have excellent IT capabilities to make working from home easy.”

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So could this spell the start of the end for swanky City spaces? It’s probably too early to say. But the relative ease in which lawyers have made the switch, coupled with the wider, long-term financial implications of the pandemic, will likely leave many law firms questioning their office space requirements in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that some City players, who announced big office moves pre-pandemic, are facing a sweat as to whether these will go ahead on time.

Freshfields, for example, is due to relocate to City skyscraper 100 Bishopsgate this summer. The magic circle player is now “anticipating a delay due to the lockdown”, the FT reports.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner is “braced for a delay” to its switch to office space near Cannon Street, according to report. A spokesperson for the firm said: “Work continues on our new office and we will be moving in the spring.”

Elsewhere, US duo Cooley and Fried Frank are also said to be facing potential delays to their City moves.

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