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DLA Piper will relocate Baltimore office back downtown after two decades

DLA Piper, a global law firm with Baltimore roots, is moving its Baltimore office back downtown after more than two decades just outside the city limits near Mount Washington, with plans to relocate to Harbor East next summer.

The law firm, formerly Piper & Marbury in Baltimore before two mergers, announced Monday that it signed a 10-year-lease for one floor, more than 34,000 square feet, at 650 S. Exeter St.

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Before moving what was then the state’s largest law firm to a low-rise office building off Smith Avenue in 2000, the firm had its office downtown in a tower at 36 S. Charles St. It currently occupies 123,000 square feet in the glassy, cubelike Marbury Building in Pikesville, some of it originally needed for file storage and support functions.

Brett Ingerman, managing partner of the firm’s Baltimore office, said less space is needed because of a pandemic-related shift to more remote work and more reliance on electronic filing.

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The current lease is set to expire next June, when the office will relocate to the waterfront neighborhood just east of the Inner Harbor.

“The combination of those events gave us an opportunity to take a hard look at how we utilize our space and our real estate and also the opportunity to return downtown,” Ingerman said. “Baltimore is the economic hub of the region. It allows us to be closer to the clients and the community that we serve.”

Many of the firm’s younger lawyers and prospective hires live or want to live downtown and want to work there as well, and Harbor East, with a mix of shops, restaurants, offices and hotels, is especially attractive, he said.

Office tenants for years have migrated to new mixed-use developments that have sprouted around the city’s waterfront in areas such as Harbor East and Harbor Point, some leaving the city’s much older, established business district.

Relocations include T. Rowe Price Group, the Baltimore-based global investment group that’s building a new headquarters in Harbor Point, and Bank of America, which moved its downtown offices to the Legg Mason Tower in Harbor East.

Aside from such shifts, many companies are reevaluating post-pandemic space needs due to more remote work. One of them, Laureate Education Inc., a longtime Harbor East tenant, had occupied three floors of the Exeter Street building where DLA will be moving but vacated the space after going fully remote in the wake of the pandemic.

Tim O’Donald, president of Harbor East Management Group, the landlord for the Exeter Street building, said DLA will be moving into a prominent place within Harbor East.

O’Donald, who declined to provide the building’s occupancy rate, said the addition of “such a prestigious firm” to the neighborhood is significant.

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“It is also significant because DLA is joining a burgeoning community of prestigious law firms that have decided to either stay or relocate to Baltimore City and specifically to Harbor East,” O’Donald said in an email. “It really underscores the vitality of the area and the distinct sense of place which Harbor East and the city’s heralded waterfront provides.”

Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, a downtown Baltimore law firm specializing in business and government clients, announced plans in November to leave the central business district and move to Harbor East. That law firm moved from an office tower at 500 E. Pratt St. at the Inner Harbor to the ninth floor of 1001 Fleet St. Gordon Feinblatt LLC, another law firm, had moved there from the Garrett Building downtown in April 2021.

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Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement that “having a firm of DLA Piper’s caliber anchor one of our premiere buildings is a true testament to the area’s reputation as a great place to do business with potential to grow and thrive.”

Ingerman said the move will allow the firm’s 213-person Baltimore office, with 70 lawyers, to design flexible conference space featuring technology to enable the increase in hybrid, in-person and remote meetings and remote court hearings. For instance, Ingerman said, he used to travel to Florida for in-person monthly state court status conferences, but those conferences now are held virtually.

In the new space, some lawyers and professional staff likely will come into the office every day, while others will work mostly remotely, he said.

“The new space will give us an opportunity to accommodate all kinds of different work styles,” Ingerman said. “Those who want to come in and work every day will have a dedicated office and those who would prefer to work remotely or some type of hybrid work arrangement will have the flexibility and the technology to do that as well.

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“What’s most important to us is that we continue the firm culture and collegiality amongst the lawyers and professional staff and deliver excellent client service. Having an office is still critically important to ... culture and community and collaboration.”

The former Baltimore-based Piper & Marbury traces its Baltimore roots to the 19th century. Piper & Marbury merged with Chicago-based Rudnick & Wolfe in 1999. That firm joined with DLA in 2005 to form DLA Piper, which today has lawyers in more than 40 countries in the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

“DLA Piper has always been a supporter of the Baltimore community, so it’s great to see the firm move their offices to the hub of the business district,” said Calvin Butler, chairman of the Greater Baltimore Committee and senior executive vice president and chief operating officer of Exelon, in a statement.


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