The return to central Christchurch for Malley & Co Lawyers is a signal of intent; the company has faith that a thriving city centre will once again be realised.
As the doors to its new Colombo Street office opened on July 30, its previous Cathedral Square office was being slowly reduced to a small pile of rubble.
Partner and acting general manager, John Shingleton says the 115 year old Canterbury firm has always had a central city presence and it was important for them to be among the pioneers leading the charge back to the heart of the city.
“We could sit back and wait to see what happens, but we truly and strongly believe there are exciting years ahead for the centre of town. As a firm, and as a city, I believe we have to look to the future.
“The next five to 10 years in Christchurch will see many exciting things happen and Christchurch is going to become a modern and vibrant place to be – not just to work in, but for visitors and the wider community, and we want to be part of that.”
Trepidation around going back to the centre of town is a real emotion among the team. Being on the 10th floor during the quake, eye level with the Christchurch Cathedral tower as it fell from sight, was an experience no one at Malley & Co will forget. To help combat any reservations the team has, the new premises, which has been strengthened to 100 percent of the building code, has an exposed wall section in the boardroom.
“The wall has been left open and a section of the reinforcement of the super-structure is exposed, allowing everyone to understand the engineering behind the safety work the building has undergone. It’s quite arty actually and in Christchurch this could be a modern approach to architecture,” he quips.
Additionally, the firm has strengthened its internal health and safety policies and up-skilled many in advanced first aid.
Since February last year, the 26-strong team has been split, some working from the company’s existing office in Hornby, the rest squeezing into a two temporary offices in Riccarton and Church Corner. “Getting the team back into one space has always been important, allowing us to re-establish the total team culture.”
“Working in separate spaces has seen sub cultures and different idiosyncrasies emerge in the individual offices. Part of this extends from the traumatic events we have been through, part as a direct response to the altered working environment. Like everyone in Christchurch, we have undergone many changes as a team, but we have always been committed to getting the team back together as soon as possible.”
Throughout the 15 month upheaval, Malley & Co has grown and thrived. An additional two lawyers, a paralegal and several administrative people have been added to service their growing clientele.
The move to ASB 518 – 518 Colombo Street is again only a temporary one as they await the completion of a new building in the same block. “We have made a long-term commitment to this central city neighbourhood.”
While many businesses will remain entrenched in the suburbs, Shingleton believes the move back to the central city will see Malley & Co, and the other like-minded businesses, playing an important role, as they contribute to the buzz and lifeline the city needs as it rebuilds.
Since February 2011
Malley & Co were on the 10th floor of the Grant Thornton Building, currently being demolished. Shingleton says it’s quite ironic that as they make plans to move back into the central city, their previous CBD base is being ripped down. “The team have been watching the demolition with interest and spotted, through the frontage that has been ripped away, my treasured signed Black Caps jersey still hanging on the wall of my office. It’s a small thing – but it’s a vivid reminder of how much we lost that day when we walked out of the building.”
While Malley & Co have been allowed back in to the building since the quake – it was for a limited time to retrieve original deed documents only.
Ensuring data security has always been a priority, however since the quakes, Malley & Co has invested into improved administrative systems. While their back-up server was located off site and the firm did retrieved all files up to 5pm on February 21, they have now installed a system were all data storage happens off site, providing an even more robust system.