Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham kickstart search for new City HQ

Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham, which are set to merge on 1 November 2014, have kicked off their search for a combined City base.

The firms have appointed property services firm DTZ to review their needs in London, as they seek to find a home for their new combined firm named Charles Russell Speechlys. DTZ has been handed the mandate to find the best way to bring the merged firm’s fee-earners together, and over what timescale. 

It’s thought that the pair are hoping to find a base offering office space of between 100,000 sq ft and 150,000 sq ft in the City. 

According to The Lawyer UK 200, the two firms currently reside in a combined 141,822 sq ft of space in London, costing a total of £9.2m. 

Charles Russell accounts for the majority of this, paying £5.5m in rent and rates for its 77,822 sq ft at 5 Fleet Place in 2013/14. Meanwhile, Speechlys spent £3.7m on 64,000 sq ft of space at New Street Square. 

Partners at the two firms voted almost unanimously in favour of their £135m merger last month, forging a combined firm with 500 fee-earners and 170 partners globally (16 July 2014). Of these roughly 430 fee-earners will be based in London.

At the time of the merger, Speechly Bircham’s managing partner James Carter told The Lawyer that a key management priority is to ensure that fee-earning teams from both legacy firms are able to sit together in one of their two buildings. However, in the longer term the firm is hoping to find one office large enough to fit all of its London-based staff.

Carter said: “We won’t see any real change for four or five months, in terms of office buildings as we need to have the same IT systems in place first.” 

Charles Russell’s managing partner Christopher Page added: “It’s quite obvious that we want to get under one roof, and the property market is turning positively and looking better.” 

Charles Russell Speechlys will have offices in Cheltenham and Guildford following the merger, both legacy Charles Russell bases. Charles Russell moved into expanded offices in Guildford this week and there is space in that building which a spokesperson said could be utilised if any areas of the business were to relocate from London.

Page noted: “This is a great opportunity for us both in terms of reorganising the space we have. Office space is at least £60 per sq ft in London, and more like £15 per sq ft in Cheltenham.”

Just last week, it emerged that Trowers & Hamlins is to launch a dedicated document production centre in Birmingham after it axed 34 secretarial roles (6 August 2014). Ashurst also announced that it is seeking a non-UK based outsourcing partner, as it put 17 support staff into a redundancy consultation (8 August 2014).

Carter said that Charles Russell Speechlys does not intend to make “significant redundancies” as a result of the merger.