First came ‘offshoring’ – and then ‘onshoring’, when emerging markets became more expensive or gave rise to service concerns. Next was ‘northshoring’, as businesses looked to move back-office work to cheaper UK locations.
One anecdotal statistic cited in the property press is that 50% of London legal work won’t be done there in a decade’s time.
As research shows, our turbocharged capital is making the bigger firms think hard about how they can cut down on space, with annual rent running at £22,400 per fee-earner. Wages are much higher for support staff too. They have to be. Manchester, reportedly in Freshfields’ sights, has a state-of-the-art tram system, on the fringes of which one can purchase a very pleasant detached residence for well under £200,000. It has Selfridges too. And Sergio Agüero.
What’s next? Bolder commentators suggest the lure of the regions will become so irresistible that some of our biggest businesses will relocate in toto – at the last count just six FTSE 100 companies were headquartered north of Birmingham. ‘Flat-capping’, one wag has already termed it.
In the rarefied climes of City law, the UK is tantamount to London for many clients, like it or not. But why employ floors of people who may not be client-facing in the world’s most expensive city? That question is becoming urgent.