Belfast Telegraph

Legal firm launches recruitment scheme for new freelance team

By David Elliott

The Belfast base of London law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has launched a new scheme which allows it call on additional help from legal assistants during peak workloads.

The Respond team is made up of 12 law graduates and qualified lawyers on flexible, part-time contracts who work alongside the firm’s permanent team during busy periods to meet urgent deadlines.

Herbert Smith Freehills said the scheme offers Respond members the opportunity to develop their skills and experience while allowing it, as a law firm, to undertake higher volumes of work more quickly.

Members of the team are fully trained through the firm’s legal training and professional development programme and are able to hold down other jobs or commitments while part of Respond.

“Respond is a unique programme that further emphasises our commitment to developing legal talent in Northern Ireland,” said Libby Jackson, director |of the Belfast office in the Gasworks. “We invest in Respond team members with the same energy and commitment that we dedicate to all our qualified lawyers and legal assistants in Belfast.”

The scheme, which was developed in the Belfast office, has already been running for a number of months with 12 members but is expected to be expanded in the near future, possibly to other Herbert Smith offices.

“Thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of our first Respond team members, the programme has been such a success that we plan to rapidly expand it over the coming months, building a balanced team of qualified lawyers and legal assistants by autumn 2013.”

Joan Frazer, a member of the team, has a law degree and a Masters in law and after qualifying struggled to find work experience.

“I’ve been really glad to have been given the opportunity,” she said.

“It’s what I wanted to do and it has definitely kept me here in Northern Ireland.”

Herbert Smith Freehills opened its Belfast office in April 2011 with £734,000 of Invest NI support to focus on reviewing and analysing the large volumes of documents found in major contentious cases, notably in litigation, arbitration and investigations.

It recently expanded to provide support to its London real estate and corporate operations.

It’s carries out work on cases from around the globe but said it doesn’t conduct “Northern Irish legal work”.

From opening with 26 full-time employees, it now has 114, including 107 fee earners.

It said it may decide to take on a further 51 people, but hasn’t yet decided whether to launch further expansion of the office.

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