Fit Out, Relocation & Refurbishment Within the Legal Sector

Graham Preston

by Graham Preston


We’ve been designing and delivering legal premises for decades and are well versed in how to maximise the process of relocation, refurbishment or fit out, mitigate the risks and control budgets. Here, we impart our knowledge in the hope that you can benefit your next project.

The art of fit-out, relocation and refurbishment within the Legal sector – a balance of cost, risk and benefit
Quiet rooms and touchdown spaces


Office design and ways of working evolve continuously and it can be a full time job keeping pace with new ways to inspire, motivate and retain staff. Knowing what will work for your business stems from understanding how your staff and teams work. Consider, does the whole team need to work in the office? Efficiency drives have led to more firms embracing hot desking and everywhere working a new form of agility for the sector.

In other words, could the majority of the team work open plan provided there are designated quiet rooms, touchdown spaces and case rooms? Kennedy’s have put this into practice with fee earners in their own open plan area communicating with support staff via individual hi-tech IT systems. The space is adaptable, allowing for partitions to be created or removed easily.

Would collaboration and teamwork be enhanced with quality breakout spaces where staff can socialise? Café style teapoints and informal meeting areas can provide just the right amount of ‘homely’ without compromising your brand in the face of clients.

Delivering your project

So once you know what you need, you can explore how to deliver it. There are two main routes: traditional delivery and ‘design and build’, otherwise known as ‘D&B’.

The traditional approach involves appointing an architectural practice or design consultancy as well as an interior designer, project manager, cost consultant, mechanical and electrical consultant(s), IT consultant and furniture specialist etc. You directly set and manage the design and the budget parameters. Contractors and sub-contractors then bid to deliver the project, and you need to beware of ‘unrealistically low’ bids as this will impact on quality.

Projects procured through a traditional process have a tendency towards escalating budgets as anything outside the tender specification is chargeable. Delivery times can also be uncertain, especially if the specification changes, and are usually longer.

Industry trends show that traditional procurement is more prevalent in larger projects – typically those over 70,000 sq ft – or projects which are specialist, particularly complex, or require major structural works.

The D&B model offers clients a turnkey solution with design, specification, consultancy, project management and construction services under one roof. Industry research shows approximately 85% of interior fit out projects with a value lower than £5,000,000 are procured via this model.

The main advantage is that it delivers 100% cost certainty as the client and contractor share the risk. It also creates a single point of contact and accountability – i.e. the contractor is responsible for the entire project. D&B is a scalable procurement model, from projects of 1,500 sq ft up to 70,000sqft – and sometimes beyond. Another benefit of D&B is that it is time efficient and lends itself well to roll-outs, great for law firms with multiple offices in the UK or internationally.

How much should you spend?

Whichever procurement route you choose, your budget depends on what you can realistically afford. It’s worth exploring whether there is room for negotiation on the lease terms, or any financing options available such as loans, leasing or hire purchase. There are tax breaks from the Inland Revenue and capital allowances and with the right advice up to 70% of the relocation/refurbishment could be eligible for some form of tax relief.

However, what you spend also depends on the project. Office fitouts vary, from cosmetic work to structural changes. That said, based on our extensive experience working on legal sector projects for Kennedys, SeyFarth Shaw, Edwards Wildman and Waltons and Morse, we advise clients to set aside a similar amount to one year’s rent (i.e £55 per sq ft or £75 per sq ft with a lower limit of circa £35 per sq ft due to the cellular nature of construction).

Most importantly your fit out budget should be comprehensive and incorporates at least the following: fit out/refurbishment costs; IT infrastructure as well as hardware, software, support; relocation to a new telephone system, installation and training; and furniture. We also recommend a contingency budget of between 5% and 10% of the project total, just in case.

Preparation and planning

Your staff and premises are often the two most expensive overheads, but they can complement and benefit each other enhancing productivity and positively contributing to your bottom line. Taking the time to consider all your options is the best advice I can give you.

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Tags: Legal Offices,Legal Design,Law Firm Offices,Legal Office Fit Out,Legal Office Refurbishment

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