Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Why legal eagles love roosting in Northern Ireland

Man on trial accused of attempting to murder soldiers, RUC officers and a female civilian staff member at Strand Road Police Headquarters
Man on trial accused of attempting to murder soldiers, RUC officers and a female civilian staff member at Strand Road Police Headquarters

The creation of more than 250 jobs in our legal industry appears to be further evidence of a booming legal services sector.

Baker & McKenzie, which employs 11,000 people in 76 offices across 47 countries, opens in Belfast next month, hot on the heels of other leading firms opening back offices here.Allen and Overy LLP, Axiom Global Limited and Herbert Smith Freehills LLP have all set up in Belfast within the past three years.

Added to the 650 jobs created over that period, the latest jobs boost brings that total to just over 900, with Invest NI picking up a £6.5million bill to help lure the legal eagles to the province.

Law firm giant Herbert Smith Freehills – then known as Herbert Smith – set up here in 2011 and in three years has already grown from 26 staff to 125.

International legal group Allen & Overy – part of the 'Magic Circle' of top five London-based law firms – quickly followed suit and chose Belfast out of 20 worldwide locations, moving into offices within one of Ireland's tallest buildings, the Obel.

Backed by £2.5million of Invest NI funding, the headcount at Allen & Overy in Belfast stands at more than 300, and a further 20 law graduates were expected to be recruited this summer.

Next to throw its oar in was global firm Axiom, after securing a £1.6million regional investment deal, made up of a Invest NI grant of £1.1million and half-a-million from the Department of Employment and Learning for skills development.

Axiom secured the funding after pledging to create 102 jobs at its hub, which provides legal advice on drafting, negotiating and the execution of all types of contracts.

All the firms are targets for Northern Ireland's average of 600 law and legal studies graduates every year.

Richard Palmer, president of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, recently told Business Month: "The investment by global legal firms in locating their back-office work to Northern Ireland is a recognition of the highly qualified and professional legal workforce which is available."

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