US firms race for top City spots in image overhaul.

Several US law firms have instructed London letting agents to find them new premises in prime areas of the City, in a bid to upgrade their images and bolster recruitment capabilities.

Hunton & Williams is understood to be searching for between 20,000 and 25,000sq ft of office space in a prime location within the City that has an existing fit-out suitable for a law firm.

A City letting agent said the firm had requested a “Grade A” location to help “upgrade its image”, after encountering difficulties recruiting suitable candidates to work from its premises in Fleetway House at 25 Farringdon Street.

A spokeswoman for Hunton & Williams said the search was driven largely by the firm’s strategy for rapid growth, which meant it was quickly outgrowing its current premises. The firm’s lease is due to expire in 2008.

It is also understood that Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson is searching for 25,000sq ft within a prime City location to upgrade its external image. The firm is located at 99 City Road, with its lease due to expire in December 2005.

Meanwhile, Bingham McCutchen and Baker Botts are going head to head over space at 99 Gresham Street. Both firms are understood to be looking to expand, with letting agents tipping that at least one of the firms will have to relocate to fulfil its needs.

Bingham is understood to be looking for between 30,000 and 35,000sq ft, while Baker Botts requires 25,000sq ft. This is more than double Baker Botts’ existing 12,000sq ft, although the lease is due to expire at the end of 2005.

Other US firms looking to relocate are Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, which requires 25,000 to 40,000sq ft, and Kirkland & Ellis.

The latter is looking for premises of between 20,000 and 25,000sq ft as part of plans to relocate from its current offices at Tower 42.

The hunt for space

Firm Sq ft required
Bingham McCutchen 30,000-35,000
Milbank Tweed 25,000-40,000
Baker Botts 25,000
Fried Frank 25,000
Kirkland & Ellis 20,000-25,000
Hunton & Williams 20,000-25,000

Source: The Lawyer