10 July 2020

Dentons closes Aberdeen and Watford offices as part of remote working review

Aberdeen: staff based there have the option of working out of the firm's Edinburgh office

Legal Delivery Centre also to go 'fully virtual' as firm seeks to 'redefine' UK office space requirements

Dentons is closing two of its UK offices — in Watford and Aberdeen — in a shift towards remote working it says has been prompted by the success of its Covid-19 lockdown remote working measures.

The move affects 66 employees with staff being offered the opportunity to return to a ‘more regular office-based environment’ in the firm's offices in Milton Keynes and Edinburgh, although the average train journey between Edinburgh and Aberdeen is around two-and-a-half hours.

The firm's Legal Delivery Centre, which was being piloted in the Watford office and offers paralegal support in areas including due diligence, is also to become ‘fully virtual’.

The firm said a project team had been set up to review ‘how the firm digitises the way it works and its use of technology more broadly, shifting to a far more agile way of resourcing work, and its overall real estate footprint’.

It added that there were no plans to close its other UK offices in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Milton Keynes.

However, it revealed it would be reviewing its London requirements when the lease on its UK headquarters expires in 2025, given the ‘opportunity to re-define the volume and kind of space it now needs in this new dynamic, whether that be in a new premises or through an overhaul of its current premises in Fleet Place’.

Lisa Sewell, managing director for the UK, Ireland and Middle East, said: “We have seen far less use of paper, more self-service and confidence using new technology and no drop in productivity or service levels despite teams not being co-located 100% of the time.”

She added: “The success of remote working during lockdown has made us really stop and think about how we can learn from this new way of working to accelerate the physical and behavioural changes that form part of our strategy to build the law firm of the future.”

The firm inherited the Aberdeen office in 2017 when it took over Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens. It has a 12-strong team, led by two partners.

It acquired its Watford operation in 2016 by virtue of its hiring of a banking litigation team from regional firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin consisting of around 75 lawyers and paralegals.

Fifty-four employees were working out the office when the lockdown started including four partners, nine associates, 23 paralegals and 11 business services personnel.

The forced move to remote working due to lockdown has led to predictions it will have a permanent impact on law firm office requirements after the pandemic abates.

Last month CMS said it had established a Future Working Group, comprised of members from management, facilities, business continuity, HR and IT, which was ‘looking into what parts of working from home and complete agility we might take forward as new ways of working’.

Yesterday (9 July), The Global Legal Post revealed that the opening of Dentons' Dublin office had been delayed by four months due to the impact of Covid-19.

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