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Belfast is a key destination for law firms

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Rebecca Kincade on February 9, 2016 - 8:09 am in News

A recent market defining report by CBRE, ‘Law in the Regions’ has indicated that Belfast is well placed in the UK as a key destination for international law firms.

CBRE’s Law in the Regions report provides a comprehensive overview of the Legal sector in the UK regions, providing both real estate strategy insight gained from a series of in-depth interviews with some of the country’s top law firms as well as results of a sector benchmarking exercise, revealing key indicators such as top 30 law firm locations, top cities by number of fee earners, average area and rent per fee earner.

Belfast ranks 13th out of the top 30 UK regional locations identified in terms of volume of legal floor space per city and third in terms of space per fee earner (highlighting the importance of international law firms to the city). Belfast is also a leader in terms of low occupancy costs in comparison to other UK regional cities.

The report also investigates a recent wave of real estate activity from law firms across the UK. The Belfast market has been one of the regional hot spots in recent years and gained a reputation as a significant legal sector destination having attracted top internationally-renowned firms such as Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills in 2011 and Baker & McKenzie in 2015.

David Wright, Director, CBRE Belfast commented:

“The strong provision of both legal and professional services talent has proved a winning combination for Belfast. Legal firms are impressed by the reputation and standard of the two universities: Ulster University and Queen’s University, Belfast which are delivering between 500 and 600 law graduates to the market each year. As well as the legal talent on offer, firms were also won over by the ample supply of high calibre professional services talent from which to choose.

“Belfast is a city brimming with talent. 2016 is the Year of Investment for Belfast and there is no doubt that the quality of educated graduates is a key driver for attracting FDI. The strong general standard and reputation of education in the City was highly valued by the firms and highlighted in all the conversations we had. The talent provision combined with attractive occupancy costs has definitely put Belfast on the map with law firms.”

Emma Jackson, Associate Director, CBRE Research, added:

“Key to our findings is that one size does not fit all when it comes to real estate strategy. Different business models and location starting points will require different real estate strategies, and as a result we are seeing very different uses of regional cities between firms. Indeed we have found significant variation in the average area per fee earner. Within our analysis we have identified three core business models in the regions, the most recent emerging over the last four to five years in the form of ‘global legal service centres.’ Many of these occupiers have chosen a UK regional centre after considering a number of worldwide locations from a cost, quality and risk perspective.”


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