Belfast Telegraph

Global legal firm Allen & Overy outsources to Belfast

Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland’s potential as a centre for outsourcing was boosted after one of London’s ‘magic circle’ of law firms announced a back-office operation in Belfast.

Big-hitting firm Allen & Overy picked Belfast out of 20 possible worldwide locations for a support office, due to open in autumn.

Around 180 workers in London will be offered the opportunity to move to Belfast, with 300 staff expected to be working in IT, finance and human resources by 2014.

But some lawyers will work on routine legal work in Belfast for clients based elsewhere.

Allen&Overy is the second big London firm to set up shop in Belfast in recent months - last year Herbert Smith announced it was opening an office in Belfast to work on cases for clients outside the province.

Invest NI has backed A&O's investment with assistance of £2.5m.

On the firm's website, managing partner Wim Dejonghe said: "The reality is that the way global legal services are being delivered is changing.

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"We have to meet that challenge and proactively offer increased efficiencies and alternative resourcing to our clients, but with the reassurance and quality they expect from Allen&Overy."

He told The Lawyer magazine that redundancies in London would be limited.

"Obviously we do offer the opportunity [to relocate] and we'll incentivise people to do that."

Trainee solicitors starting work with Allen&Overy in London reportedly earn around £37,000 per year, rising to £50,000 after qualification.

But salaries in Belfast will be less high, reflecting the lower wages paid in the province.

However Mr Dejonghe denied lower overheads were the sole driver of the decision to move some operations to a city where costs were lower.

"If the costs were the driver then we could've done something else, but we never wanted to compromise on quality," he said.

"It's one of the reasons we went for onshoring not offshoring and why we're launching as an A-amp;O office.

"We weren't going to take any risks with quality."

US economic envoy Declan Kelly said Allen&Overy's move demonstrated the province's attractions, included a competitive business environment, talented workforce and progressive universities.