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CHICAGO-Technological advancements and recruiting competition are leading two of the city’s top firms-Jenner & Block and Kirkland & Ellis-to ditch their current offices in aging landmark skyscrapers for new buildings in 2009. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, based in New York, is also weighing whether to move its Chicago offices in light of its current lease expiring in 2009, said Marian Wexler, a partner at the firm who heads up the real estate department. Skadden is looking at its options and will probably make a decision this year, she said. Jenner and Kirkland last moved about 30 years ago. In the intervening years, technological changes mean the firms require less space for administrative workers and more for computers and wiring. With new floor plans, the firms will be able to squeeze in more lawyers per square foot. They’re also making the space more attractive, with increased window space for example, as the firms compete to recruit attorneys. “You care very much about the first impression your office makes,” said Jenner partner Donald Resnick, who is working on the move project. Other firms, other places Chicago-based rivals Sidley Austin and Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw moved their offices last year, also setting up in new buildings. The older buildings don’t allow the firms to compete on efficiency and image, and updating them would be too disruptive, said Steven Steinmeyer, who works with the real estate services company Jones Lang Lasalle in Chicago. He has advised some other firms. Jenner & Block, which announced its move this month, will leave the IBM Building on the Chicago River to move a block northwest of its current location and occupy the top 12 floors of a 45-story building. The new building will have more parking and faster elevators, among other things. “The economics were a little better to stay, but they were not compelling,” Resnick said. “They were not enough to overcome the obvious benefits of moving into new space.” The space occupied by Jenner’s Chicago office, which has about 350 attorneys, will decline slightly in the new building, partly because its current location has a lot of unused space. Square footage will decline to 390,000 from 393,000 currently, with less space per lawyer. Kirkland will leave the Aon and Prudential buildings, which overlook Lake Michigan, and move across the Chicago River to take up residence on its north bank. The firm, which has about 515 lawyers in Chicago, will have 24 floors in the new building. Moving will let the firm place as many attorneys in a space 25% smaller, providing for more cost-effective growth. Kirkland planned to occupy 600,000 square feet, compared with 530,000 in the current building, but it has the right to take up to 650,000 before the move. With the number of attorneys already rising ahead of plan, the firm may take more floors, said Stephen Tomlinson, a partner at Kirkland who worked on an analysis of whether the firm should move or renew the Aon lease. By working with the building designers to create more space around the perimeter of the building through an H-shaped floor plan, Kirkland was able to create window space for every attorney. “When you explain to your partners that you can get newer and better for cheaper they look at you like: ‘Is this a trick question?’ ” Tomlinson said.

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