Olswang nears deal to sublet London offices to UCL as merger with CMS and Nabarro goes live


Olswang is in advanced talks to sublet more than 60,000 sq ft of its London office space to University College London (UCL), as it prepares to move in with merger partners CMS and Nabarro.

The three-way merger went live yesterday (1 May), with Nabarro and Olswang joining the CMS UK partnership - now named CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP.

Nabarro’s London staff and lawyers are moving into CMS’ Cannon Place headquarters this week, although Olswang will not move in until two weeks later.

Olswang currently occupies 91,000 sq ft at 90 High Holborn, where it has been based since 2002. The firm’s lease on the premises runs to 2022, and earlier this year it agreed a deal to sublet 27,000 sq ft of space to US firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which is set to move in on 5 May.

UCL is now in discussions to sublet the remaining space covered by the Olswang lease. It is understood the deal has not yet completed, but is in the final stages.

One partner said: “Olswang has managed to sublet all its remaining space to UCL. It is a done deal bar a final signature and is in the process of being signed.”

After partners voted in favour of the three-way merger last year, CMS UK, Nabarro and Olswang signed a lease to take two extra floors at CMS’s London base at Cannon Place. CMS currently occupies the first, second and third floors of the building, with the combined firm set to occupy the sixth and seventh floors as well.

Both Olswang and Nabarro appointed property agents in December last year to market their London offices ahead of their moves. Nabarro has 120,000 sq ft of City office space to sublet at 125 London Wall, under a lease running to 2025. The firm is in discussions with two parties interested in taking the space, according to one Nabarro partner.

The merger has created a firm with nearly 2,500 lawyers in the UK, with combined UK revenues of around £450m. It will focus on six sectors – energy, financial services, infrastructure and project finance, life sciences and healthcare, real estate and technology, media and telecoms.

Post-merger, CMS is expecting to update its partnership model and the way it will appraise partners in future.

UK managing partner Stephen Millar told Legal Week: “For partners, we have a model which is based on the CMS model and will apply to the new firm. It will probably get an update – the objectives will be based on how to make colleagues better and how to help them.”

To date, there have been more than 140 referrals and more than 50 joint pitches across the three firms. When asked whether there would be specific financial rewards for referrals, Millar said: “We don’t particularly need it, as we have been working very well. The way partners are rewarded involves looking at individual, team and practice group performances.”

The firm has also already drawn up a combined client list. Senior partner Penelope Warne commented: “The key clients for all three firms have already been merged, and where there is overlap we’ve combined the client relationship teams. The business development teams are already in place.

“We have made this bold move with one goal in mind: to build a new kind of future-facing law firm, combining top quality sector expertise with international scale and a strategy to become a progressive, technology-driven firm.”