Lawyer 2B looks at the biggest deals and key legal and market developments to have taken place over the summer

Law firms are taking advantage of Londons soft real estate market, with several securing bargain leases and rent-free periods on new office space.

Bevan Ashford, Dewey Ballantine, Herbert Smith, McGrigors, Osborne Clarke and SJ Berwin have all made significant investments in new London premises since the start of the year, and have been able to drive down rental costs to as little as 31 per sq ft.

Scottish firm McGrigors will pay just 31 per sq ft for its new premises at 5 Old Bailey, while Bevan Ashford has negotiated to pay 33 per sq ft for premises at Fleet Place House, including a 27-month rent-free period. Osborne Clarke has also secured a 26-month rent-free period at London Wall, while Norton Rose and Lawrence Graham are expected to commit to taking space at More Londons 13-acre development south of the River Thames.

The legal work tends to be undertaken by a firms own real estate department, although SJ Berwin did bring in Slaughter and May to advise on its move.

According to research by real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker, law firms across Europe signed up for 2.4 million sq ft of office space in 2003. London, Paris, Amsterdam and Madrid benefited most from this trend, with law firm movement in London resulting in the total space leased reaching 430,600sq ft last year.

Unlike this year, movement in 2003 was largely driven by US firms entering the UK market, such as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, which leased 80,000sq ft of office space, and White & Case, which signed up for 120,000sq ft.