Talent pool 'behind Northern Ireland's legal services reputation'
The quality of Northern Ireland's talent pool is the main factor behind the region's fast growing reputation as a legal services hub, the chairman of the world's largest law firm has said.
Eduardo Leite of Baker & McKenzie hailed the local workforce as he officially opened a new Global Services Centre in Belfast's regenerated docklands.
Baker & McKenzie, which operates in 47 countries worldwide, is the latest in a string of global law firms to establish bases in the city in recent years. Allen & Overy, Pinsent Masons and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) all now have offices in Belfast.
Mr Leite, whose firm intends to employ 250 in the city, predicted more competitors would come in the future.
"I am sure more will come, in the service sectors in general, not just legal," said the senior executive.
"The quality of the education is outstanding - that is very attractive."
Mr Leite said his firm's search for a location for its global services centre took two years and covered eastern Europe, South America and Africa.
It opted for Northern Ireland last year and had been working out of temporary offices in the city centre prior to becoming the anchor tenant in the new City Quays 1 building in Clarendon Dock.
Mr Leite added: "Northern Ireland ticked all the boxes, from the quality of the people, the attitude, the location, being in Europe made also a big difference for us, and the language. It has all exceeded our expectations in a matter of one year since we started. We are extremely happy."
The Stormont Executive's business support agency Invest NI offered Baker & McKenzie an incentive of almost £1.3 million to come to Northern Ireland.
Mr Leite insisted the money was not the main factor in the firm's decision.
"Yes, there was the incentive, but the incentive was not really what motivated us to Northern Ireland," he said.
"It was more about the talent and the quality and, as I said, the quality of the people has exceeded our expectations."
Stormont's Finance Minister Arlene Foster attended this morning's opening ceremony.
She said the feedback from the firm had been very positive. "They are very pleased with what they have seen here in Belfast and comment has been made that we under-promised and over-delivered and that is a very good benchmark to have," said the minister.
"I think Invest NI has done a tremendous job right across the world in bringing firms like this into Belfast."