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The glass-enclosed lobby of Mayer Brown’s new offices at 20th and K streets in downtown DC has such a space-age feel that it looks as if it might blast right off its foundation. The Chicago-based firm signed a lease in October 2007, closing one of the last big law-firm real-estate deals before the credit crisis. The firm moved into the space in September.

A source familiar with the Mayer Brown deal says the firm is paying about $75 a square foot to unite its 175 Washington lawyers, formerly split between two buildings—meaning that with more than 204,000 square feet of the building’s 251,000 square feet, the firm’s annual rent is upward of $15 million.

Would Mayer Brown have signed on for such space if it had foreseen the economic downturn? Counsel Stuart Pergament, who oversaw the lease negotiation, says yes but adds that if the firm had waited a bit longer, “we would’ve been happier because the rent would’ve been cheaper.”

Amenities include a subsidized cafeteria (fresh panini, grilled fish), coffee lounges on each floor, and views of Georgetown University and Washington National Cathedral. The futuristic lobby can get even more Jetsonsesque—its white paneled walls conceal LED fluorescent lights, which can be programmed to light up in different patterns and colors.

Pergament says that the firm expects, by the end of its 15-year lease, to occupy the whole building, which can house as many as 300 lawyers. First, however, Mayer Brown has some seats to fill itself: It recently lost five securities lawyers—including partners Richard Morvillo, Peter White, and Pat Conti—to Schulte Roth & Zabel.

This article first appeared in the January 2010 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.

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