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On Valentine’s Day, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering signed leases for 524,000 square feet on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between 18th and 19th streets, a new home at the heart of the city where we were founded 40 years ago. The execution of these 20-year leases concluded a remarkably creative and challenging real estate transaction, and ended an arduous four-year search. Since the mid-1980s, the firm’s offices have been in the West End, a comfortable neighborhood within an easy stroll of Georgetown and Dupont Circle. In the past several years, the firm’s practices — securities, regulatory, litigation, and transactional — have grown steadily. At the start of 2003, we were 40 percent larger in Washington and 50 percent worldwide (385 lawyers in Washington, 546 worldwide) than we were just three years ago. By 1999, we knew we would have to find larger offices. Because of Washington’s rigorous height and zoning requirements, however, only a handful of private buildings in the city were large enough to accommodate our projected growth over the next decade, even though we do not plan to continue growing so rapidly. As a result, our longtime real estate advisers at Julien J. Studley Inc. were challenged simply to find space large enough for us. To make the search more difficult, our collaborative style of practice drove us to insist on having one integrated site with an open design. Over the next three years, Steve Goldstein, Tom Fulcher, and David Perlstein at Studley undertook an exhaustive search that led them more than once to take out a map and examine, one at a time, every block in Washington’s business district. As the search progressed, we realized that, once we located a site, we might have to construct a new building. We also realized that when the right option appeared — one that promised us a cohesive, efficient, and comfortable office in a location convenient for our clients and ourselves — we would have to act quickly to seize it. THE PLANNING BEGINS To prepare for a quick decision — and in keeping with our democratic style of decision-making — we began extensive consultations, not only with our partners, but also with our other attorneys and staff. The first step was to create internal and external advisory teams. Internally, we formed a space committee of 15 partners and staff (with Jane Robinson, our firmwide facilities coordinator, taking the lead) that was responsible for choosing our architect and conducting the initial evaluation of possible sites. On our external team, besides Studley, were Gary Humes, a partner at Arnold & Porter, which had gone through a similar process itself; Lehman-Smith+McLeish, an interior architecture firm that has completed many projects for large law firms in Washington and other major cities; and Mark G. Anderson Consultants, a project management firm with large-law-firm experience. The two teams spent many months analyzing our needs, meeting with as many people as possible within the firm. They explored the requirements of each practice group and administrative department. They also wanted to get a sense from our attorneys and staff about what mattered most to their comfort and efficiency. Because we knew we might construct a new building, this analysis was unusually detailed. The analysis focused not only on basic questions — for example, how much space each group needs — but also on issues that would affect the quality of our lives while at work, such as day care, security, parking, and the ability of people to meet in “magnet” spaces such as the cafeteria and library. Another priority was state-of-the-art training space, including a moot courtroom. We asked our lawyers and staff what kind of space would help them to work efficiently, and what kind of conferencing and support space would best meet our clients’ needs when they visited our offices. Finally, we confirmed that, because our practice relies so much on the free exchange of ideas and expertise, our attorneys wanted to be able to visit each other easily. NO COMPROMISES From this process emerged a list of requirements that guided our search. Studley’s skill and persistence turned up several options, including attractive, build-to-suit space and multi-building, campus-style options. But the former required us to compromise on location and neighborhood amenities, and the latter would sacrifice cohesiveness. We stuck to our vision. Eventually, Studley identified an exciting possibility: On the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue opposite the World Bank is a block of four buildings, two of which were under-occupied and two of which could be demolished with a few months’ notice to the tenants. This site offered an ideal combination of space, location, amenities, and efficiency. But the deal would be complex. The buildings had three separate owners. To make matters worse, soon after we found the site, one owner entered into negotiations with someone else for a significant amount of space. When lease negotiations with that prospective tenant fell through, we were prepared to respond quickly because our internal and external advisers had already prepared us so thoroughly. We received word on a Tuesday morning that the space might be available again. By the end of the week, our teams had prepared a comprehensive analysis of the project, comparing it with our next-best option. By the following Tuesday, the entire partnership was briefed, and the firm voted to pursue negotiations with the Pennsylvania Avenue landlords. THE DEAL COMES TOGETHER At that point, speed was still critical because the three owners were forgoing opportunities with other potential tenants. Over the next 14 weeks (an amazingly short period of time for so many pieces to be pulled together), our entire team and Tom White, one of our senior corporate partners, worked tirelessly to create and negotiate the leases and work agreements for our new home. At the same time, our design team worked with the developers’ architects and with our project manager to plan the best way to integrate the three buildings. One of the buildings (1899 Pennsylvania) was recently renovated; a second building (1801 Pennsylvania), the former headquarters of MCI, is relatively new. The building between them (1875 Pennsylvania) will be constructed to replace two older buildings, which the site’s developers had already decided to tear down before our negotiations began. Initially, we will occupy six of the 11 floors in 1899 and seven of the 12 floors in 1801, in addition to all 12 floors in the new building. By 2015, our plans envision that we will occupy all floors in all three buildings, a total of 644,000 square feet. Each of the buildings will have attractive rooftop space, and we will have substantial on-site parking. Our move will take place in stages, beginning at the end of this year and concluding in 2006, after the new building that will anchor our office has been constructed. For the next few months, under the leadership of Bob Stack, now the chair of our expanded Space Committee, several focus groups of lawyers and staff will help us think through the details of turning our new space into a home that matches our style of practice and our culture. These groups are helping us plan for expanded child-care facilities, high-tech conference rooms, space to accommodate our extensive training programs, comfortable and efficient offices and desks, and a large, attractive cafeteria. Meanwhile, our architects are working to produce interior space that is light-filled and attractive, while the exterior architect, Shalom Baranes, is designing the new building to complement the remaining two. So many people are devoting so much time to this process because we decided at the beginning that office space is more than square footage: It is the expression of — and should enhance — the quality of our practice and our working lives. Carol Clayton is the administrative partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.

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