Belfast Telegraph

Global law firm hails city hub as a 'vital investment'

By Heather McGarrigle

The Belfast office of a global legal firm has been described as one of its 'most important investments'.

Allen and Overy announced in April that it had chosen Belfast as the location for its support services centre, shunning other shortlisted location options such as Cairo and Budapest.

In its annual review, The Shape of Change 2011, the company describes its Belfast office as 'amongst the most important investments of the last year'.

The report states the new office will save the legal giant £11m in the first five years and £8m per year thereafter.

Mark Riddell, associate at the Belfast office of property consultancy Savills said companies like Allen and Overy must be encouraged to invest here. "We must encourage companies similar to Allen and Overy to invest in Belfast and make real savings on their real estate costs as they have.

"It no longer makes sense for large international companies to base elements of their support functions in some of the most expensive cities in the world. Belfast can play a role here.

"We continue to encourage all the relevant authorities to do all they can to assist in securing the inward investment which is vital to the health of the Belfast office market.

"The knock on effect will be positive and send out the right signal to future investor."

Managing partner at Allen and Overy Wim Dejonghe said choosing Belfast was an important strategic decision.

He said: "We've taken a view about what the firm will look like in 10 years time and how it will need structured.

"Clients were demanding a more efficient way to organise ourselves and rightly so.

"But we were determined to balance quality, risk and cost and that's why we decided against outsourcing.

"We want Belfast to be another A-amp;O office where the quality of our work is assured."

The company's first recruitment drive in Belfast for 130 posts attracted 2,300 applications. Senior partner David Morley welcomed the response and paid tribute to the quality of Northern Ireland's graduates and jobseekers.

He said: "Because Northern Ireland has a great public education system, there's a huge pool of talented people looking for first-rate opportunities, which tend to be thin on the ground."