Baker & McKenzie: Belfast too good to refuse, says US firm behind 250 jobs
Cost-effectiveness was among the reasons one of the world's biggest law firms decided to base its new global "centre of excellence" in Belfast – but it wasn't the deciding factor.
That was the assurance of the man heading up Baker & McKenzie's new global services centre, which is set to open in Belfast early next year, creating 256 "high-quality" jobs.
Invest NI yesterday unveiled the latest jobs boost for Northern Ireland when representatives of the Chicago-headquartered law firm revealed they had been won over the city's entire package.
It is the firm's second off-shore support centre after it set up in Manila in the Philippines
The roles on offer – within the law, IT and human resources professions, plus other payroll, billing and administrative services – will be rolled out over the next three years and will offer salaries of £31,000 a year, a level above the private sector average.
It is expected the centre will include around 120 professionals by the end of its first year of operation, rising to between 200 and 250 after three years.
The news of the firm's establishment in Belfast follows the recent entry to Northern Ireland of rivals Herbert Smith Freehills, Allen and Overy and Axiom.
Belfast was not just the cheapest choice, stressed the firm's executive director of Baker & McKenzie's global services, Belfast.
"That's clearly not the case," Jason Marty said.
He added that the firm had considered other locations, including sites in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa, before choosing Belfast as the best option for a variety of social, economic and business reasons.
"We did pretty extensive study, as you would expect, when choosing where to set up, including analysis of cost-effectiveness, the environment, the education system here and other factors, and there were a number of places we could have gone to," he said.
"But we have had a good experience on our visits here and we feel a lot of cultural affinity with Belfast."
He added he had recently relocating to greater Belfast with his family ahead of opening for business in September.
Baker & McKenzie executive committee chairman Eduardo Leite said Belfast won out because its "additional proposition" of high-quality talent allied to its infrastructure, time zone and position as a common law jurisdiction.
He added that following testimonials gleaned from last October's international investment conference at Titanic Belfast and the returning trade visit to Chicago in June, his firm had "been very impressed by the calibre of the workforce here".
"We have the tremendous comfort of being told we are doing the right thing, coming to the right place," he said.
Mr Leite added that the financial incentives offered by Invest NI were dependent on the number of jobs the firm creates over the next three years.
"The plan is 260, which would result in a contribution of around £1m," he said.
Commenting that the Belfast base follows the successful operation of the Manillan template, the chairman said a key difference would be the centre's ability to help the firm create what he called "higher-level services" by more directly integrating its services into the firm's core practices.
He said he expected the Northern Ireland workforce to live up to his expectations of providing an "innovative, creative and efficient" service to customers "in this highly competitive and hyper-connected world".
Invest NI said the jobs were not merely "back office" positions but high-quality roles within a major player in its field.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: "These are high-quality jobs, contributing almost £8million in salaries to the economy every year.
"The firm is also keen to work closely with our universities to help develop curricula that will produce graduates with industry-relevant skills, making Northern Ireland an even more attractive to other global legal firms."
She said she expected the roles would appeal to graduates and non-graduates and to people at varying stages of their careers.