Baker & McKenzie’s reimagined real estate

December 1, 2014 Laura McDaniel

Well before the lease expired on their founding office in downtown Chicago, Baker & McKenzie LLP engaged JLL to develop and execute a strategic real estate plan. Looking beyond space itself, Baker wanted a new office that served a deeper purpose, with key goals including:

  • Represent the brand’s global presence
  • Encourage collaboration among attorneys
  • Provide flexibility for growth and varying work styles
  • Reduce occupancy costs per attorney
  • Demonstrate their commitment to sustainability
JLL began a deep dive to understand the needs and desires of Baker’s attorneys and support/operational staff. With company and employee wishes in hand, we completed a market evaluation, compared multiple sites, and eventually secured a lease at Hines’ iconic, to-be-constructed River Point development. To ensure stability, we negotiated a significant penalty should Hines fail to deliver. 

That turned out to be a good thing. The market collapsed (fall 2008) and kept the River Point project from moving forward. Thankfully, we still had plenty of time before Baker’s existing lease was up, so back to the drawing board we went.

Baker’s JLL team quickly positioned the law firm as an ideal tenant for the last block of pace in the “last new development” available in Chicago at the time—a 237,000-square-foot office in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield building’s vertical expansion.

We secured the lease with superior economic advantages, saving Baker more than 35 percent on occupancy costs compared to the earlier transaction with River Point. In addition, we negotiated maximum flexibility options, including expansion and contraction and termination options. Baker also received distinct building and lobby identity rights, and rights to corporate amenities like food service in the high rise, state-of-the-art conferencing facilities, a health club and more.

Once the deal was inked, JLL’s project managers stepped in to help Baker make the space their own. Upgrades included:

  • A full-height clear glass demountable wall in the attorney front office, allowing attorneys and staff to look around and see who’s where, increasing informal meetings and collaboration
  • Design to ensure that the floor is flooded with natural light, providing everyone an outside view and making the office more comfortable
  • A two-story reception area and multi-purpose room with a reflection pool and clear glass conference room, as well as a two-story wall of electric glass that provides privacy when turned off and amazing views when on
  • Floorplans that decreased rentable square foot per attorney by 33 percent; including “pods” for secretaries that minimize support staff occupancy ratio
Upgrades helped the office achieve LEED-CI Gold certification for its emphasis on sustainable design. Baker moved into their new space in January 2012 and remains there to this day. 

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