Walker Morris announces flagship office move to accommodate future growth

Leading law firm, Walker Morris, is to relocate to 33 Wellington Street, Leeds – a move that will be the largest professional services relocation in the city for almost 15 years.

The building is undergoing a comprehensive £10 million refurbishment to provide a premium working environment for Walker Morris with significantly improved sustainability credentials.

Walker Morris, which was advised by specialist property consultancy Fox Lloyd Jones, will move from its current locations split across two buildings on King Street into 76,000 sq. ft. of fully renovated, Grade A office space at the heart of the Leeds business district in summer 2019. Once complete, the relocation will see all 500 of Walker Morris’ staff together under one roof, underlining the Firm’s position as the largest single site law firm outside London.

Malcolm Simpson, incoming Managing Partner of Walker Morris, commented:

“This is a very exciting time for the firm. Walker Morris is a fantastic firm, with the best people, superb clients and a great future. The move is a significant investment by the partners and underlines the confidence we have in our future growth plans for the firm. We are also investing heavily in our IT infrastructure, and the overall aim is to inspire our staff, and enable them to work more collaboratively and effectively; whether they are in the office, working remotely at home, with clients or on the move.”

Paul Fox, director of Fox Lloyd Jones, added:

“As well as being the biggest professional relocation in Leeds in over a decade, this move delivers Walker Morris a rarely available self-contained HQ building off market, and has also enabled our team to input and influence the design and layout of the building to be delivered, which makes it feel bespoke and unique.”

“The building’s high profile location in the West End of the city where development and office take-up is soaring; and its accessibility to the amenities of Wellington Place, makes it a great platform for growth for the business.”

The relocation commitment comes on the back of a major workplace analysis exercise by Walker Morris in consultation with its employees, to explore ways in which they can work together, both now and in the future, to use space more efficiently, and deliver innovative client services. The result is that the new Wellington Street offices have been designed to provide an agile working environment; with a hybrid of open, private and meeting areas; which will engender collaboration, and support flexible and seamless team working for the Firm’s multidisciplinary client teams.

When complete, the refurbished building will also feature a floor to ceiling glass façade to the offices, and a unique south facing outdoor courtyard area, which the Firm sees as a great and unique asset to be used for both client and employee events. The move will be underpinned by a number of ongoing IT infrastructure investments, all of which have been preceded by a multimillion pound investment in a new practice management system during 2017.

Walker Morris has a distinctive strategy, operating from a single site centre of excellence in Leeds from which it services its national and international client base. The Firm has retained a dominant footprint within the region and is consistently ranked by Experian as one of the most active corporate law firms. At the same time the Firm has invested in developing national leading specialist teams enabling it to win over 70 per cent of its work from outside the region, including 20 per cent from clients based overseas.

The property, which was bought by Knight Frank Investment Management for Lancashire County Council Pension Fund from MEPC in 2010 for £20 million, was occupied by PWC for 20 years before PWC moved to new headquarters in the city at Central Square in October 2016.

Eamon Fox, Partner and Head of Office Agency at global property consultancy Knight Frank in Leeds, who advised KFIM, commented:

“This is one of the most significant office deals in Leeds during the past 12 months. The property is a flagship office building in a superb city centre location and it is fitting it will be now be home to one of Yorkshire’s finest law firms.”

John Styles of Knight Frank Investment Management explained:

“We are delighted to have collaborated with Walker Morris on this pre-let which significantly de-risks the refurbishment project for the Fund, will generate an attractive investment return and will create a very secure long term asset. The refurbishment is consistent with the Fund’s investment return objectives and also its Environmental, Social and Governance policy which promotes the re-positioning of property assets as opposed to wholesale re-development.”

Construction work on the Wellington Street property has started through appointed contractor GMi Construction and it is expected that building will be handed over to Walker Morris for internal fit-out in early 2019. Fox Lloyd Jones is retained to project manage the internal delivery phase and internal design workshops are ongoing.