Herbert Smith Freehills to transfer almost 500 staff to new Canary Wharf base

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) will move almost 500 London staff to a new office in Canary Wharf later this year.

The move will see about 495 employees – including the majority of its UK business services staff and its London alternative legal services team – relocate to the new base on Bank Street this September.

The Anglo-Australian firm’s UK business services staff are currently based in offices in Finsbury Square in the City, which will now close. The firm’s lease on the office was due to expire at the end of 2020.

HSF confirmed that it does not expect to make any redundancies as a result of the move.

The firm’s Exchange House office will continue to serve as its primary City HQ, where about 150 business services staff will remain based.

In a statement, CEO Mark Rigotti said the new space would “empower people to move away from traditional office-based ways of working”.

UK, US and EMEA managing partner Ian Cox told Legal Week that cost savings were not a key driver behind the move, with a desire for more flexible working instead cited as a major motivation.

Cox said: “We were very keen to retain our people and Canary Wharf was the location that suited most needs of most people.

“There won’t be permanent desk spaces in the new office – we want to encourage the teams moving over to use the space in an innovative way and move around depending on what projects they are working on.”

He added that the firm considered a variety of other London locations, including Stratford, White City and Croydon.

Rigotti added: “This initiative supports our service delivery strategy, in how we innovate and adapt to a changing world and how we deliver services. We are committed to creating a workplace – and a workforce – for the future, empowering our staff to work how they want to work.

“The choice of Canary Wharf was also heavily influenced by our desire to be close to our clients, with many of our major clients based in Canary Wharf.”

HSF’s ALT business offers legal process and technology services to clients, providing a cheaper and more efficient option for high volume or document-intensive work.

The firm has launched a series of alternative legal services centres around the world in recent years, including one in Johannesburg in 2017. The South African offering, based at the firm’s existing office in the city, was HSF’s eighth alternative legal services launch.

The firm has other hubs in London, Belfast, Shanghai, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as Sydney, where the firm last year relocated 230 employees to a new base in the northern suburbs of the city.