Freshfields sets sights on Toronto for new support hub after opting against Vancouver

Toronto

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has abandoned plans to open a North American support hub in Vancouver and is instead likely to launch the new base in Toronto.

The firm has not yet made a final decision on the location of the new legal services centre, but Toronto is seen as the most likely venue, according to sources close to the firm.

Freshfields confirmed plans to open a second legal services centre in Canada in early 2016, and had been expected to open in Vancouver by the end of last year.

It has now decided against the city in preference for Toronto, which is the financial centre of Canada and therefore likely to offer better recruitment prospects.

Legal Week reported last year that the firm was planning to initially hire 20-35 paralegals for the proposed Vancouver centre, which would be staffed primarily with legal services staff, as well as some business services roles.

It is understood that the number of people likely to be recruited for the new base has not changed.

The Canada centre will work alongside the firm’s existing global legal services centre in Manchester, which opened in 2015. The Manchester centre is ultimately expected to house up to 700 staff including business services staff, paralegals and qualified lawyers.

Legal Week has previously reported that the firm is also likely to open a third centre in Asia-Pacific at some point in the future, although it has not committed to any detailed plans or locations.

News that the firm has changed its preferred location in Canada comes as the firm prepares to move to a new London headquarters. The firm has signed a 20-year lease at 100 Bishopsgate, and will move into the new office in summer 2021, by which point it will have been on Fleet Street for more than 30 years.

It has signed a pre-let agreement with developer Brookfield Property Partners to occupy 255,000 sq ft across floors 20-32 of the 37-storey tower. Construction of the 950,000 sq ft office and retail development started in 2015 and is set to finish in 2018.

The move will be a downsize for the firm in London, with its current Fleet Street offices occupying a reported 370,000 sq ft.

Last year, Freshfields offered voluntary redundancy to all 180 of its London secretarial staff at the end of last year. The firm is not planning to make any compulsory redundancies, although the process is expected to result in a reduction in overall secretarial headcount.