Posted on Monday 12 November 2012 by Ulster Business

Allen   Overy

International law firm Allen & Overy is close to reaching the number of jobs it committed to creating in Northern Ireland just one year after opening its new Belfast office.

The London-based company opened its support and legal services centre on Donegall Quay to much fanfare in November last year, promising 317 jobs within five years in return for £2.5m in financial support from Invest NI.

But service centre manager Andrew Brammer (above) said the magic circle law firm has already hired 250 staff and this number will rise to 285 once its current round of recruitment is complete.

"We're rushing up towards the target. With the vacancies and the headcount we have at the moment we're up to 285 against the 317 in just over 16 months. We committed to that over a five year term with Invest NI so we're well ahead of where we said we would be," he said.

"We are currently advertising to build a business development capability here and we are also expanding our legal services centre as well," he added.

Allen & Overy is an international legal practice with around 4,750 staff, including some 480 partners working in 40 offices worldwide.

The Belfast office carries out a range of functions to support the global business including finance, IT, business services, human resources, marketing and legal services.

The firm evaluated 20 locations worldwide before deciding to invest in Northern Ireland, at the time citing the highly skilled workforce and cost effective working environment.

Brammer said that its clear strategy and the quality of people it has been able to hire had given the firm the confidence to grow at an accelerate rate. Only a handful of employees in Belfast transferred over from Allen & Overy's London office. Everyone else was hired from the local Northern Ireland market or has used the firm's presence as an opportunity to move home.

"The associates that we've hired and the senior lawyers are all Northern Irish people who've come through the education system here, gone to London, Dubai, elsewhere in the world, to get international legal experience and then brought that experience back to the roles we've created in this office," said Brammer.

The service centre head notes that while it is a significant employer of legally trained people the Belfast office does not do advocacy and is "the only Allen & Overy office where you can't directly instruct a lawyer".

However, the local team are playing a key role in its network by covering all back office functions.

"It is part of the global network of 40 offices and provides key transactional services to over £400m of that business. The guys working here are providing services to offices right around the network. We would deal with around 20,000 legal documents a year in Belfast and 22% of our revenues are driven through legal transactions that involve five or more jurisdictions," he said.

The only slight challenge Allen & Overy has faced is a tightness in some areas of the recruitment market where specific IT skills are required.

However, Brammer notes this has led the firm to get involved with South Eastern Regional College on a legal document skills course to ensure a pipeline of suitable candidates and also raise its profile as an employer of choice.

"The IT market is a bit tighter, there's no doubt about it. But I see that in the context of the labour pool. You've got 1.7 million living in Northern Ireland compared with 10 million in metropolitan London and NI is becoming a more attractive proposition. We definitely think that competition will increase in the medium term for skills we're interested in and IT will be part of that. But this is a long-term play for Allen & Overy in Northern Ireland, and it is something we're prepared for," he said.

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