Drinker Biddle shaving space here

Posted: April 09, 2013

The 660-lawyer Drinker Biddle & Reath L.L.P. corporate law firm is expanding its New York branch and shrinking its Philadelphia headquarters space, but not its workforce here.

The firm is doubling its Manhattan space at Silverstein Properties' 1177 Sixth Ave. tower to 31,000 square feet, even as it prepares to downsize its Philadelphia flagship office at Brandywine Property Trust's One Logan Center to 155,000 square feet in 2014. That will be down from 209,000 square feet, and to seven floors from 10 presently.

Drinker signed a 10-year lease at the New York tower, where listed rents run in the high $70's per square foot. Brandywine is asking rents in the mid-to-high $30's per square foot for the upper floors at One Logan.

"We remain a Philadelphia-headquartered firm, [and] in Philadelphia we'll have the same number of lawyers," said Andy Kassner, Drinker's executive partner.

Improved technology has allowed the firm, like its peers, to cut back on data centers, libraries and other common areas. The firm has also chosen to reduce the size of its lawyer offices, while emphasizing common areas that encourage lawyers to work together.

Drinker is also planning smaller offices at its Princeton and Florham Park, N.J. offices, for the same reasons.

By cutting back office space, Drinker can afford more space in high-traffic, high-cost markets, where large corporate clients congregate.

"If you're going to be a national litigation firm, you need to be in New York, and in California and Washington," Kassner said. "If you're going to be in government relations, you have to be in D.C. We have over a hundred lawyers in Washington. We have to go where our clients are. We go where we get the best legal talent."

Drinker is also planning to take additional space in Los Angeles.

While rents are lower in Philadelphia, the city's high business taxes take away much of the advantage over other downtown business districts, notes Jeffrey A. Baker, of Cresa Philadelphia, one of the brokers who represented Drinker in the New York deal.

Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, JoeD@phillynews.com, and @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.

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