Correction, 1/10/2013, 10:45 a.m. EST: The original version of this story contained an incorrect figure for the amount of space Arnold & Porter has leased in the Washington, D.C., building its office there will move to in the fall of 2015. The correct figure is 375,000 square feet. The fourth paragraph of this story has been revised to reflect the correct information. We regret the error.
Law firms are shaking up the commercial real estate market around the country, plotting office moves, gutting their current spaces, and reassuring landlords with lease renewals.
The nation’s capital has been particularly busy in this regard of late. Cooley’s 80 Washington, D.C., lawyers, for instance, started the new year with a crosstown move into 87,000 square feet of space in the city’s iconic Warner Building, including a few floors once occupied by now-defunct D.C.–based litigation firm Howrey. On the way to moving into to the new space, Cooley terminated its existing lease at 777 Sixth Street N.W. in Chinatown, according to the Washington Business Journal. In exchange, the firm’s new landlord, Vornado Realty Trust, agreed to take over responsibility for that lease and is currently shopping the space to prospective tenants, the Business Journal reports.
The move gives Cooley 30 percent more space than it had at the previous location, where its lawyers and staffers had worked since 2007.
Elsewhere in D.C., Arnold & Porter announced this week that it has committed to a 20-year lease in a Boston Properties–owned building to be constructed in the city’s Penn Quarter neighborhood. The firm said it expects to move into its new space—375,000 square feet in the 11-story building at 601 Massachusetts Avenue—in the fall of 2015. (The building currently standing on the site, which is home to National Public Radio, will be razed to make way for the new development).
Arnold & Porter managing partner Richard Alexander tells sibling publication The Blog of Legal Times that the move will actually represent a downsizing from the firm’s current D.C. footprint at 555 12th Street N.W., which has housed its local operations since 1995. Even so, Alexander said, the new space will allow the firm room for future growth, thanks to a more flexible design centered around the same-size offices and technology-friendly work spaces that are becoming common features for law firm tenants ready to shed wood-paneled offices built before the rise of computers.
Also in D.C., Patton Boggs recently signed a 15-year lease extension for its current 206,00 square feet of space in Washington’s West End neighborhood, BLT reports. The firm plans to remodel its flagship office, where it has been located since 1978. Across town, Linklaters solidified its D.C. presence in December by signing a 10-year lease for 9,900 square feet in the Homer Building, according to BLT. The commitment follows the Magic Circle firm’s return to the city last year after an initial run there from 1992 to 2002.
Further up the East Coast, Goodwin Procter is formulating plans to relocate its Boston headquarters to a new location along the city’s South Boston waterfront. In December, as Goodwin ended its 100th year of practice, it signed a letter of intent—the precursor to a lease—in which it agreed to become the anchor tenant in a tower to be built as part of a massive mixed-use development project called Fan Pier.
Goodwin real estate partner Alexander Randall, who heads the firm’s real estate leasing practice and is leading work on the project, tells The Am Law Daily that he started seriously hunting last year for where the firm would go once its current lease expires in 2016. Faced with the prospect of living through a renovation or moving elsewhere, Goodwin chose the latter. “The issue for us is that our space . . . is not built for the law firm of the 21st century, if you will,” Randall says of the financial district office with closed-off offices and little natural light that has served as the firm’s home base for 30 years. “It must have been designed by people who didn’t want to be found.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who was among those trumpeting Goodwin’s move in a press release issued by building developer The Fallon Company, has dubbed the neighborhood where the firm is headed the “Innovation District.” Randall says Goodwin will have considerable input into what the building looks and feels like, both externally and internally, and will work with architecture firm BBG and designers at Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype. “I want it to be attractive and iconic and notable,” he says.
The firm plans to take over 360,000 square feet—60,000 square feet less than it now occupies—and move in by the time its current lease expires. Will the new space eschew those fancy corner offices? Maybe not, Randall says: “I can only take so many cultural leaps at a time. But I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Here’s a look at other recent law firm real estate deals to cross our desks:
K&L Gates: Like the firm’s downtown Pittsburgh headquarters, the Irvine, California, office building at 1 Park Plaza whose top two floors serve as its Orange County outpost is now emblazoned with the K&L Gates name, sibling publication Globe Street reports. The office counts 35 lawyers and patent agents.
Kaye Scholer: The firm officially signed a 20-year lease on a portion of a still-under-construction midtown Manhattan office tower at 250 W. 55th Street, a Boston Properties–owned building also slated to serve as the future New York home of Morrison & Foerster. The Am Law Daily reported in July that Kaye Scholer had signed a letter of intent to take over 250,000 square feet of space in the building, which it plans to move into in 2014.
Kirkland & Ellis: Kirkland—which has had a Silicon Valley outpost since 2008 and now has roughly 25 attorneys focusing on private equity and intellectual property deployed there—has taken over a 30,000 square-foot, two-story building at 3330 Hillview Avenue in Palo Alto’s Stanford Research Park.
Sidley Austin: Less than a year after opening in Houston in temporary space, the firm has signed a 10-year lease on space in the city’s downtown Wells Fargo Plaza, according to the Houston Business Journal. Sidley took 49,868 square feet in the location—enough to accomodate up to 70 attorneys—and plans to move its staff and 27 lawyers in February, the Business Journal reports.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges: The New York–based firm surprised Dallas market observers by extending its lease at 200 Crescent Court until 2028, Dallas Business Journal reports. Weil, which opened in the city in 1987, had considered moving to new developments located either downtown or in the arts district, according to the paper, but the firm’s 90 local lawyers opted to stay put.