The working environment for 240 barristers and staff at the Birmingham HQ of one of the UK’s best-known chambers has been transformed, after an 18-month project spearheaded by independent property specialists, KWB.
No5 Barristers’ Chambers has been in the city for a century, and at its Fountain Court head office in Steelhouse Lane since the 1960s, but CEO and Director of Clerking, Tony McDaid, said the building was beginning to look tired with some areas in need of urgent attention.
“Previous landlords hadn’t refurbished the building over the years and although it wasn’t exactly falling apart, it clearly needed significant investment. We investigated moving elsewhere, but eventually decided to stay,” he says.
“Our latest landlords were relatively new, and KWB persuaded them to agree new leases and rent levels, so we knew we had the building for at least the next 10 years. The landlord agreed to invest, and we decided to follow suit.”
“Over the course of a year, we agreed a plan which involved moving everyone on the fourth floor down to the first floor, involving significant refurbishment and a redesign, and approximately 25 barristers’ rooms also needed to be knocked through.”
Adrian Southall, director of KWB Workplace, admitted the project was one of the most complex in his decade with the Newhall Street agents.
“It began as a lease renegotiation and possible relocation, then became a sizeable refurb, which raised a series of unexpected issues, including power supplies, and finally it was all about project management,” he says.
“However, although the different elements took a long time to assemble and decanting the barristers between floors was a major challenge, it was absolutely worth it.
“The new open-plan design, the break-out space, and the feel of the whole workplace are now as good as anything you could find in Birmingham, and everyone there is delighted, which of course is the most important aspect.”
The new space came fully on stream just before lockdown, and Tony McDaid says it has been well received by everyone as working practices have evolved.
“We now have almost twice as much space as before, so much better conditions for the staff and our barristers,” he says
“We also now have an excellent seminar suite which we have been seeking for almost 20 years but were restricted due to space issues and lack of creative thinking, and KWB helped us solve those problems.”
“Some of the space we have developed has been very useful due to its design which has allowed us in these times of Covid and social distancing to create virtual courtrooms, enabling us to link into hearings from chambers.”
“The last re-fit in the staffing areas was probably 15 years or so ago, the décor had been really showing its age, and because we’d expanded so much in that time-frame, we were starting to feel cramped.”
“The complexity of the project did give us a few headaches along the way, but everything was ultimately sorted just how we wanted it, thanks to Adrian’s advice and guidance, and I must say he was great all the way through.”