Law firms not in justice precinct

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 08:27 12/02/2014
Justice and Emergency Precinct
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JUSTICE PRECINCT: The precinct will be built on a site between Colombo, Tuam, Durham and Lichfield streets, and is expected to be fully operational by mid-2017

Wynn Williams new building
Dean Kozanic
NEW HOME: Law firm Wynn Williams will move into the replacement for St Elmo Courts on Montreal St.

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Many of the top law firms relocating within Christchurch have chosen sites outside the planned justice and emergency services precinct.

Some law partnerships are branding new buildings with their corporate names to give them a presence within the central city, taking leases of 10 to 15 years.

The firms have taken separate strategies in terms of location often based on a relationship with a developer.

With the old CBD landscape gone, they pointed to the rebuild being concentrated along the Avon River and to the western and northwestern side of the old central business district.

The justice and emergency services precinct is in the southern half of the CBD on a site between Colombo, Tuam, Durham and Lichfield streets, and is expected to be fully operational by mid-2017.

Many firms spoken to by The Press agreed that a decision on a location was not driven by the location of the precinct, with lawyers now spending less time in the formal court setting.

Lane Neave managing partner Bill Dwyer said the firm planned to move into 141 Cambridge Tce near the Avon River, to be a tenant of Dunedin-based landlord Tony Clear and be located next to the Harley Chambers building. Developer Farry Clear had involved Lane Neave in the building process, now under way.

There was no need to be near the justice precinct, Dwyer said.

"We're a law firm of about 124 people in Christchurch. Probably five of them are court lawyers; the balance of the firm don't need to be near the court."

His view was the city would develop around the river rather than Cathedral Square, at least to begin with.

Duncan Cotterill chief executive Terry McLaughlin said services-industry companies including law firms had been choosing three hubs - either Victoria St, Lincoln Rd or the western side of the central business district centred around Durham and Montreal streets.

Many of the city's longer- term commercial leases had been decided, and would be based around these areas, he said.

In October Duncan Cotterill would move to a "Knox Plaza" building, next to Knox Church on Victoria St.

The firm, with 140 staff, would take naming rights and take Canterbury Chambers barristers and Murray & Co as sub-tenants.

Buddle Findlay Christchurch partner Mark Odlin said an early decision by his firm meant it had moved into a new 83 Victoria St building in mid-December.

Being away from the precinct was not a big issue.

"Increasingly litigators don't run down to court like they used to. A lot of things are held by telephone; it's all this interlocutory stuff."

Project lawyers Greenwood Roche Chisnall are in the same 83 Victoria St building.

The Richard Diver-developed Victoria St building was in line with a corridor of developments on the western side of the city stretching down to HSBC Tower (on Worcester Blvd) and the council building.

Simpson Grierson chairman Kevin Jaffe said 10 Christchurch staff had moved to a floor at HSBC Tower in Worcester Blvd.

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Staff were needed to deal with the increasing workload surrounding the Christchurch rebuild.

Simpson Grierson had this year appointed Hugh Lindo to the partnership. Taking someone from a rival firm (Duncan Cotterill) in Christchurch was "relatively uncommon" in a city like Christchurch, Jaffe agreed.

Wynn Williams executive chairman Jared Ormsby said the firm had agreed to lease the top 3 1/2 floors on the former St Elmo Courts site on the corner of Montreal and Hereford streets and planned to move in July.

Wynn Williams House would bring in staff from Shirley and Riccarton.

"We're now at 90 and expecting more growth so we've decided we better take an extra half floor just for the future," Ormsby said.

Anderson Lloyd Christchurch partner Mark Christensen said the firm was hoping to move to one floor of a new Gloucester St building located near the Centre of Contemporary Art, also known as CoCA, by the end of May.

"We thought that was a good location close to the council, to the HSBC Tower and to a number of other building developments.

- The Press

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