Slaughter and May is planning to refurbish its London base after it ended its search for new premises and extended its current lease by ten years.
Although the plans are in their infancy, a person with knowledge of the matter described the project as “high on the agenda”. However, consideration is being given to how the new space might align with the firm’s post-pandemic hybrid work offering, by which the “majority” of its London and Brussels lawyers can work remotely 40% of the time, according to insiders.
The move comes after the firm called off its search for a new London office space in 2020, instead deciding to extend its current lease at One Bunhill Row to 2036. At the time, the firm’s then-executive partner, Paul Stacey, explained how the current base was “an important part of our identity and is recognised as such by our staff, clients and all those connected with the firm”.
Another person with knowledge of the situation said one of the drivers behind the anticipated renovations was adapting to new ways of working: “I think the main question is how is space going to be being used? Now that people are not going in to the office so regularly, how can we make the space useful for when they do return, especially when looking at spaces to be used collaboratively”.
A third person said they did not think the firm would switch from its traditional layout to fully open-plan spaces and hotdesking: “I suspect the lawyers will still be in their offices most of the day, although there may be greater focus on collaborative spaces”.
The question of office space has become an important subject for law firm management as they adapt to hybrid working, with office occupancy only hovering around the 25% mark on certain days.
Although some firms such as Allen & Overy and Hogan Lovells originally sought to cut down their office space, many are now rethinking their approaches and are opting instead to create spaces of ‘a higher quality’ to encourage staff back in over the long-term. Last week, Linklaters decided to take on more space after originally opting for a more drastic decrease, with a focus on “making sure people want to be in”.
U.S.-headquartered firm, Goodwin Procter has also been on the hunt for a new space not only to accommodate its London growth but to foster the long-term return to the office.
Slaughter and May is also trialing a once a month ‘bring your dog to work’ day, introduced by managing partner Deborah Finkler, and which has so far has been described as a success.