The legal sector has become one of the main drivers of the Hong Kong office-rental market, particularly in Central, as turbulence in the global economy has greatly reduced the role played by the financial sector, according to property consultant CBRE.
The significant expansion seen in the legal sector in recent years has been most evident in Central. Office buildings traditionally associated with the sector were now close to fully occupied, while those which relied on financial-sector tenants had more vacancies, it said.
There are 33 legal firms each occupying over 20,000 square feet of office space, primarily in Central. Baker & McKenzie is the biggest, with more than 110,000 square feet of space spreading from Admiralty to Central.
Mayer Brown JSM occupies more than 100,000 square feet, mainly in Prince's Building, according to CBRE.
Although there have been reports of legal firms trimming down recently, many more are still expanding.
Both of these situations drive the need to rationalise space requirements, in the first case to downsize and in the second case to become more efficient in expensive locations and allow the company to grow within its existing footprint. A recent study by CBRE details the challenges now being faced by legal-sector occupiers and highlights how they can be overcome through innovative solutions.
These challenges largely consist of firms having to manage their costs by accommodating more people within less square footage, either as a result of hiring new employees or the consolidation of operations. A common approach is to reduce the amount of space per individual.
Paul Dingley, executive director of project management for CBRE, said: "The market has moved on from simply splitting offices to providing more flexible and imaginative workspace solutions. One can reduce costs while delivering a more attractive and cost-effective work environment. Among these solutions one may consider, for example, off-site storage and server rooms, open-plan floors, quiet rooms, breakout areas and mobile decking."