Legal leases show signs of life

Just two years ago, during the onset of the fiscal meltdown, experts were bemoaning the flight of the New York City legal industry. One report suggested that law firm profits per partner were set to drop by up to 15 percent in the city, while decades-old mainstays like Heller Ehrman dissolved and left their offices.

But now, with legal hiring on the rise, more than a few noteworthy leases are being signed, in what could perhaps be a legal leasing rebound.

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Law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer nabbed 108,000 square feet at 601 Lexington Avenue this fall, while Seward & Kissel signed a 20-year deal for 150,000 square feet at One Battery Park Plaza in October, expanding its existing space by a floor.

And, despite what Pryor Cashman managing partner Ronald Shechtman described as a “soft economy,” the firm announced last month that it was adding to its significant presence at 7 Times Square, where it signed a 100,000-square-foot lease in 2008. The company inked a 15-year deal for 6,000 square feet at the building, on 42nd Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue.

The momentum is strong enough that Eastern Consolidated named the legal services field as one of the New York City industries that has seen the greatest employment growth so far this year. The legal industry added 2,700 new employees during the first three quarters of 2010.