Chicago law firm Cooley opening office in Bank of America Tower

The deal notches a leasing victory for the developers of the 55-story Bank of America Tower, which became the tallest new Chicago office building in 30 years when it opened last year along the Chicago River. It’s also a good piece of news for downtown office landlords overall at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing many companies to shrink their footprints after adjusting to life with people working from home. That eroding demand drove up the office vacancy rate in the central business district to an all-time high as of the end of June.

Cooley’s lease on the building’s 42nd floor stands out as a long-term commitment to office space while most tenants wrestle with the calculation of how much workspace they’ll require in the future. But the crisis has done little to shape how much Cooley needed for its Chicago office, said Rick Ginsberg, who left law firm Winston & Strawn earlier this year to become partner in charge of Cooley in Chicago. Before COVID rocked the office world, some of Cooley’s other locations across the country were prioritizing space for conferencing and collaboration as opposed to individual workspace, he said, a movement that is now more commonplace across the office sector.

“I don’t think the pandemic affected this,” Ginsberg said, though he acknowledged that some attorneys and staff might work remotely more frequently moving forward.

“We’re planning for longer term, what this is going to look like a year from now or five years from now. We’re betting people are going to be in the office,” he said.

Cooley launched its Chicago office in May with 10 founding partners, but has since grown to nearly 40 lawyers and a total local headcount of about 50 people, including staff, according to Ginsberg. The firm is not seeking to hire a specific number of new attorneys and other workers at its Chicago office, but Ginsberg said the new office “gives us room to grow.”

Cooley joins a tenant roster at 110 N. Wacker that is rife with law firms. Jones Day, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Perkins Coie and King & Spaulding have all inked deals to relocate their Chicago offices to the 1.5 million-square-foot building, which is now roughly 80% leased including the Cooley deal, according to a spokeswoman for developers Riverside Investment & Development and Howard Hughes.

“110 North Wacker not only offers tenants a premier office address, but also world-class building systems and telecommunications infrastructure to support every modern technology need,” Riverside Executive Vice President Rafael Carreira said in a statement. “The building is a perfect fit for Cooley’s tenancy while their space will be uniquely on brand.”

Riverside is hoping to replicate its Wacker Drive leasing success next to Union Station, where it is developing another 1.5 million-square-foot office skyscraper named for anchor tenant BMO Harris Bank that is slated to open next year. About half of that building has been pre-leased to BMO and law firms Chapman &…

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