Baker & McKenzie in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Baker & McKenzie in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Photo via Wikipedia)

Baker & McKenzie is opening a new back-office operation in Belfast, Northern Ireland next month that will house 200-250 employees within the next three years, the firm confirmed Wednesday.

Belfast is the firm’s second overseas support office. Baker & McKenzie opened a similar office 14 years ago in the Philippine capital of Manila to support its worldwide operations.

Jason Marty, global director of operations at Baker & McKenzie, will relocate to Belfast from Chicago to serve as the initial executive director of the new office, which is expected to staff more than 120 professionals by the end of the year.

Baker & McKenzie is one of several international firms to open offices in Belfast recently. Others include U.K.-based Herbert Smith Freehills, which opened in April 2011, and Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy in July 2011.

Baker & McKenzie said its Belfast employees would work on due diligence and deal closing matters, as well as provide support for information technology, human resources and payroll. InvestNI, a regional business development agency that encourages investment in Northern Ireland, is contributing $2.1 million in aid to Baker & McKenzie to open its Belfast back offices, which would employ 70 legal staff and 185 administrative personnel.

Eduardo Leite, chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s executive committee, said that the Belfast office is in part a response to client expectation of efficiency and managed costs. “We are delighted to choose Belfast for our second global services center as an extension of our commitment to improve quality and increase efficiency,” he said in a statement.

Baker & McKenzie’s Manila back office, which opened in 2000, was the first offshore support center to be established by a law firm. It has since grown its head count by about 10 percent every year and now has more than 600 business services and legal staff supporting its 76 offices in 47 countries, the firm said.

Baker & McKenzie itself has been enjoying a banner year. Earlier this month, the firm reported record revenue of $2.54 billion for the fiscal year ending June 30, a 5 percent jump from a year earlier, positioning it to take the top spot on The American Lawyer’s Global 100 ranking this fall.

While the firm may be basking in the strength of its financials, one of its former leaders is having a harder go. International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, who served as Baker & McKenzie’s chair from 1999 to 2004, is currently under formal investigation by a French court for alleged negligence in the use of public funds while serving as the country’s finance minister.

According to Reuters, the investigation stems from a fraud case dating back to 2008, in which Lagarde is accused of helping a French tycoon, Bernard Tapie, win a big arbitration award because of his political connections.

Lagarde held several important government posts in France after leaving Baker & McKenzie, where she had been a labor and antitrust lawyer since 1981. She was elected chair of the firm in 1999, as reported in The American Lawyer at the time of her impending nomination to the IMF post.

Lagarde, who is regarded as one of the world’s most powerful women, issued a statement Tuesday denying any misconduct. She succeeded former IMF Chairman Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2011 after he resigned over sexual assault allegations that were later dropped.

Baker & McKenzie declined to comment on the matter.