Speculation is growing that Hill Dickinson will move into Spinningfields and take over Halliwells after the latter filed for permission to enter administration.
Halliwells, saddled with debt of £25m according to recent accounts, signed a prelet for 120,000 sq ft at £26/sq ft for 3 Hardman Square in 2004 and has been weighed down by the cost of the space, which is partly sublet to various tenants.
Earlier this year, Mike Edge, the head of Halliwells' property team, left to join rival Pinsent Masons, one of numerous departures by partners in the past year.
Hill Dickinson, whose largest office is in Liverpool, is keen to grow its Manchester base. The company has a requirement in the market for office space in Manchester city centre and is now predicted to move into 3 Hardman Square. Hill Dickinson is currently based on Fountain Street. The firm reported fee income of £82.0m for the 2008/09 financial year, representing a rise of 12% from the previous year's revenue of £73.05m. The Manchester office performed strongly with income up 22.5% from £11.7m to £14.3m.
Halliwells said in a statement: "Halliwells LLP is in advanced discussions for the transfer of the business in its entirety to another highly-regarded firm of solicitors due to events that have adversely impacted the finances of the firm.
"These are the results of high property costs exacerbated by the current economic climate which affects the profitability of the firm. The underlying business remains strong and has attracted interest from a number of parties.
"To provide Halliwells LLP with a period of stability to facilitate this transfer, the firm has entered into a moratorium to protect the interests of clients and other stakeholders and to ensure business continues as usual."
Hill Dickinson declined to comment.