De-centralizing on trend for firms

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A major international law firm is rumoured to be looking to de-centralize jobs.

International firm Freshfields is rumoured to be the next firm to transfer ‘repetitive legal work’ from London.

Allen & Overy moved 180 jobs to Belfast in 2011 and Ashurst moved around 175 jobs to Glasgow in 2013.  Firms have typically opened their doors in cities with a strong law school, picking up recent graduates.

Ashurst vice chairman Mary Padbury said the increasing trend is proving to be beneficial to clients in the Australian market and that their Glasgow office is picking up work from offices around the globe, not just from London.   

“A very sizable amount of the work done in Glasgow is actually sourced from Australia,” she said.  “It means you have a 24 hour working cycle.”

Chairman Ben Tidswell said the strategy allows the firm pick up work from existing clients, that it otherwise may not have due to the cost.

“We have an office in Glasgow where we conduct much more routine systemised work and that’s in response to clients saying ‘we’d love you to do everything in this transaction for us but every transaction has got some stuff which doesn’t require an experienced lawyer sitting in Sydney or London, can you do it cheaply for us?’”

Aside from the cost and time benefits, Tidswell said an advantage for clients in using a small offshore office within a larger firm, is that a familiar partner is taking responsibility.

“The key to it is quality I think because you can send work anywhere to be done cheaply but the thing that we would say is different is that we control the whole piece of work and authenticate the quality which is so important,” he said.  “The point of delivery partner is responsible for the quality.  The partner that they know and trust has taken responsibility for the work.”

In terms of the model’s applicability for domestic Australian firms, Padbury said moving offices to regional parts of Australia may not be as cost effective as smaller cities within the UK.

“I think the cost difference between different parts of Australia is not as marked as say London and Glasgow,” she said.  “But [it’s] certainly possible.”

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