Workspace sidelines Norton Rose with Richards Butler instruction

Workspace Group has snubbed regular adviser Norton Rose for the first time, using Richards Butler on two of its latest acquisitions.

The £400m property company has used Norton Rose exclusively on all acquisitions, disposals and own account corporate work for the past five years.

Norton Rose has also been retained to handle Workspace Group’s non-transactional corporate work and has recently advised on two other property acquisitions, but the days when the firm could expect to be Workspace’s sole adviser are definitely over.

In addition to Richards Butler, Workspace wants to appoint local legal advisers on a regional basis for lower value work.

Workspace’s company secretary and legal counsel Iain MacDonald told The Lawyer: “Since joining in December 2001, one of my objectives was to spread the business around and see if we could get as good a service, or a better service, than we do now.”

MacDonald and the management board identified a need to go to other firms for smaller scale work. “It’s succession management. If our relationship partner at Norton Rose was to retire or fall under a bus we’d have no alternatives,” said MacDonald. The current Norton Rose relationship partner is head of the international real estate business group Lindsay Morgan.

Richards Butler could gain a significant amount of work. In its last annual report Workspace announced that it had made 13 acquisitions, worth £71.2m, and five disposals that amounted to £48m, bringing the value of the Group’s property portfolio to £414.7m. Workspace Group rents business premises to small and medium-sized enterprises in London and the South East.

Richards Butler property partner Paul Johnston led the team advising on the £12m acquisition of the Canalot Building in London and the acquisition of converted factory Charles House, while Norton Rose has advised on the recent acquisitions of the Seedbed Centre in Essex and Aladdin Workspace in Middlesex.