Freshfields moots Manchester low-cost hub for legal and support services

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is planning to join City rivals with the launch of a low-cost shared services hub in Manchester, it has emerged.

The magic circle firm is undergoing a consultation to move a number of its legal and support services from Fleet Street to Manchester city centre, with a number of landmark properties under consideration. 

It is believed the new Freshfields site could be between 70,000 sq ft and 100,000 sq ft in size.  

Prime rents for office space in Manchester are around £32 per sq ft – half the average £65 per sq ft rent charged around Fleet Street.

According to the firm’s most recent LLP filings, consolidated property costs were £117.1m in 2013/14, down from £126.5m in 2012/13. Freshfields has been in its Fleet Street premises since 1989.

It is understood that staff could be moved in phases starting next year and completing in 2018, should the move go ahead. Back office staff would be moved initially, with other departments to follow later.

Aspects of legal work could be also located in Manchester in addition to back-office services, it is understood.

Lawyer and staff numbers at Freshfields have been rising in the last three years, with total headcount increasing in 2013/14 to 4,589 from 4,491 the previous year. Around 2,500 of this number are based in London. In 2013/14 the firm employed 2,115 lawyers.

The move to open legal and support offices in Manchester follows a trend of northshoring over the lasrt couple of years (2 February 2015). Last year Berwin Leighton Paisner opened a back office function on King Street in Manchester, which is expected to reach 100 staff in 2015 (11 March 2014).

In January, Latham & Watkins announced it would also open a business service office in the city (8 January 2015).