Clifford Chance eyes £1m of savings with trial of open-plan working

Clifford Chance is shifting all its mainstream London corporate team to the same floor of its Canary Wharf building to raise cash in a move that also sees the firm trial an open-plan setting.

The firm is carrying out a staggered transfer of the team from the 21st to the 22nd floor of its London offices, with the space that is currently occupied by the team being marketed to prospective tenants.

One estimate being floated puts the annual business rate savings at £1m, based on the benefit of squeezing staff onto the same level.

In the meantime, the firm is looking to attract a long-term, high-quality tenant and has cleared the space on floor 21 to use as a show room.

The move excludes the financial institutions, funds, TMT and competition teams, which will be housed separately on their own floor.

The corporate team, which the firm split into three last year (31 January 2011), is currently housed over floors 21 and 22, with two of the groups on one floor and one on another.

The process to move the whole team onto floor 22 is being staggered over the course of a lengthy period, with a group transferring earlier this month and another team moving floors last Friday (11 May). The remainder are expected to transfer in a few months’ time. Other practice groups are unaffected.

A partner commented: “It’s kind of [about] integrating people, but it’s so that we have a better chance of renting out the building for a bit of cash. We save a huge amount in business rates.”

Meanwhile, the firm is trialling open-plan offices for the corporate team in the new set-up, with between a quarter and a third of the team – some volunteers, some forced – participating in the project, expected to last at least six months.

The move is understood to be generating an element of antipathy among partners, with one partner commenting: “How loud people whinge depends on what day of the week it is.”

A Clifford Chance spokesperson said: “Yes, some lawyers are moving between floors. This is business as usual – as we continue to seek ways of occupying our space more efficiently for our people and for our clients.

“There may be some open-plan offices in the new lay-out. There are many instances of open-plan working already in the office and we’ll continue to use this style of working where appropriate.”

Clifford Chance’s plans come amid the imminent departure of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a tenant, from the firm’s offices, while there is also speculation over whether FTSE Group will move out of its space in the building.