An international law firm has officially opened a support office in Belfast which could create up to 140 jobs in the next five years.
London-based Herbert Smith has hired 26 people in Belfast but will recruit another 12 'fee-earners', which will scrutinise paperwork for global clients in litigation as well as regulatory cases and dispute resolution.
If it takes off, the firm said it may create another 100 posts in the next five years, generating total salaries of £4.7m by 2016.
It has been offered £1.1m in grant assistance from Invest NI to create those additional posts.
The firm's opening makes it the first of its kind to open an 'onshore' operation in a low-cost UK region for routine work as lawyers come under pressure to offer cheaper services to clients.
The Belfast Herbert Smith team has 19 fee-earners, who can charge clients for time spent, nine of whom are qualified lawyers. Another seven people are employed as legal assistants.
Libby Jackson, director of the Belfast office, said: "Our decision to expand the team further is due to high demand and the extremely positive response from our clients to the excellence of the legal work being done in Belfast."
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said Herbert Smith "has given a clear endorsement of the Northern Ireland proposition which can only further strengthen the legal sector here".
According to industry magazine The Lawyer, firms Eversheds and Simmons -amp; Simmons decided not to open in Northern Ireland after talks with Invest NI.
Eversheds managing partner Lee Ranson said: "In short, we feel our structure already gives us a better solution than opening an additional single service site in Northern Ireland not least from a training, quality and supervision perspective."
Invest NI said it would not be appropriate for it to comment. The agency has targeted law firms in London to discuss the advantages of transferring some operations to the province.
Allen -amp; Overy will employ around 200 people when its office opens in Belfast in the Obel building in the autumn.