Law practices reap benefit of property market boom

Many medium-sized London law firms are expanding so quickly that they are scouring the City for new office space.

According to Jonathan Solomon, commercial property partner at Norton Rose, medium-sized practices are looking to move into new and bigger offices to cope with burgeoning workloads.

“In recent weeks, I have had enquiries from four firms looking for development space of around 60,000-70,000 square feet. Many medium-sized practices have outgrown their current premises,” said Solomon.

The property market is back in favour in the City where property company share prices have performed strongly in the first quarter of 1996.

Investors believe that the returns on direct property investment will be higher this year than for gilts and equities. Their confidence has rubbed off on share prices which have recorded significant gains.

But the mood of optimism is also lifted by an increase in deal flow which benefits advisers, from law firms to stockbrokers and merchant banks.

Norton Rose has advised on a number of recent deals, including property group Hammerson's £11 million acquisition of its building in Victoria Street, London, from the Liverpool Friendly Society. Dominic Cosgrove at Nabarro Nathan-son acted for the society.

Norton also acted for cables group BICC in the disposal of its interests in a 37-acre development site at White City. The site was purchased by Chelsfield, represented by Ashurst Morris Crisp partner Ian Nisse.

While most City analysts believe the current upturn in property can be sustained, observers such as John Atkins at broker UBS are cautious about the future. He said: “There is still a lot of vacant space out there which is going to prove hard to shift.”

But there is reasonable demand for good modern office buildings, he added.