Christmas has come early for those firms in the midst of negotiating new property deals. Landlords just can’t get enough of lawyers, it seems, with US firms showing the way to the best bargains. As The Lawyer went to press Dewey Ballantine was on the verge of agreeing to take 31,500sq ft at 1 London Wall. Assuming the deal goes ahead, Dewey will take on almost double its current space – but save up to 25 per cent per square foot in the process.

Meanwhile, partners at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood are already celebrating. Fruitful negotiations with West LB are understood to have resulted in 78,500sq ft being secured at Woolgate Exchange, under a 17-year lease at £42.50 per sq ft with two years rent free. As yet the firm has still to let its Princes Court and Threadneedle St premises, but this deal was obviously too good to refuse (although the firm was keeping shtoom).

For White & Case things don’t look quite so rosy. The firm signed up to take about 100,000sq ft in Lion Plaza, but huge delays are now threatening the move, which was due to take place mid-2004. White & Case is once again in negotiations with the landlords and has also been casting around the City for another deal.

Although frustrating, the firm could benefit from the delay. The general view is that White & Case is merely sounding a warning to the landlords – and negotiating a prettier package on its rent at the same time.

Things are also working out nicely for SJ Berwin. There are delays on a decision – not due to arguments over the partners’ car park, but because the firm has been spoilt for choice. Berwins is tossing up between Clifford Chance’s former stomping ground 200 Aldersgate and buildings in Chiswell Street and Queen Street Place.
“Just when we’re about to sign one deal, another landlord comes back with a better offer,” moaned one Berwins partner. As a result the firm looks set to get new offices for only a fraction more than it is paying for that dreary Gray’s Inn Road premises (widely understood to be one of the cheapest in the City).

There’s a host of other firms looking for space, including Norton Rose (which is after 300,000sq ft), Latham & Watkins, and Dechert (will they ever make a decision?).

So, with firms securing such bumper savings, surely the partners won’t this year be quibbling over a few bottles of bubbly for the staff Christmas party?