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Law firm offers jobs boost with city office

A MAJOR international law firm based in London is to set up an operation in Belfast.

Herbert Smith, which has offices in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, will employ 26 lawyers and legal assistants to analyse documents for major cases.

The firm said it was the first time a big player in the legal profession had chosen to set up such an operation in the UK.

Herbert Smith said clients would be given the option of using the operation in Belfast when it discusses with them how their cases are to be run.

The Belfast efforts will focus on contentious work like litigation, arbitration and regulatory investigations - but the firm is not expected to draw any new clients from Northern Ireland or the Republic.

Invest NI has offered £208,000 of support towards the creation of the new jobs, estimated to generate £650,000 annually in salaries.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the arrival of the firm.

"Herbert Smith is a global firm with a number of multinational companies as clients, many of whom will now have some of their needs met by lawyers and legal assistants from a Belfast base.

"Working across specialist disciplines, Herbert Smith will offer quality employment opportunities delivering salaries well above the Northern Ireland private sector average."

Sonya Leydecker, head of the firm's global disputes practice, said the new operation would offer clients "a very attractive combination of quality, efficiency and value for money".

"Clients are increasingly looking to their lawyers for more imaginative approaches to the management of disputes.

"In particular, complex projects such as disclosure are important but can increasingly be systematised and managed in new ways.

"The Belfast office will make a new range of resourcing options available to clients."

Partner Graeme Johnston said Northern Ireland stood out among possible locations for "the great calibre of the available people, combined with cost competitiveness and geographical convenience".