Magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is reportedly seeking office space in Manchester as part of a planned ‘near-shoring’ exercise.

The firm, whose headquarters for 1,300 staff occupies 230,000 sq ft in Fleet Street, central London, has hired Knight Frank to look for 100,000 sq ft in Manchester city centre. It is being suggested back-office staff will be moved, but other departments could follow later.

‘Near-shoring’ - or ‘north-shoring’ - legal support work to parts of the UK where office space is cheaper and wages are lower has become a trend among the bigger firms.

The annual rent for high-end office accommodation in cities such as Glasgow, Manchester or Birmingham is less than half that paid in London, while in Belfast it is under a third.

Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy were the first to kick-start ‘near-shoring’ in the UK by establishing support centres in Belfast in 2011 (see this week’s Gazette feature).

Last March Hogan Lovells announced plans to farm out ‘less complex aspects of demanding projects’ to a new office in Birmingham.

Baker & McKenzie opened a second low-cost support centre in Belfast, which began operations in September, undertaking legal work and providing business services support. It opened its first global services centre in Manila in the Philippines, in 2000.

Freshfields declined to comment.