Baker McKenzie’s offices in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Baker McKenzie is adding a legal services center in Tampa to complement existing back office operations in Northern Ireland and the Philippines.

When the new Florida center is fully operational by 2020, the firm expects to have 300 employees on-site handling work in legal services, finance, IT, knowledge management, business development and marketing, among other areas.

“The creation of the center is truly part of a strategic project across the entirety of the firm to improve quality and provide ‘follow the sun’ services to our clients around the globe,” said Tampa center executive director Jamie Lawless, who has relocated from New York for the new role.

Previously, Lawless served as the firm’s director of implementation and chief operating officer of its New York and Washington, D.C., offices. 

Baker McKenzie was one of the pioneers among law firms in establishing separate back office facilities, opening its Manila center in 2000 and then Belfast in 2014. For its first center in the U.S., the firm researched a number of locations before selecting Tampa. Lawless pointed to the city’s talent pool, accessibility, quality of life and diversity as reasons it won out.

In this decision-making process, it was really important to Baker McKenzie that we enter a market that’s a top business destination and a market that would allow us to be part of the future of the city’s success,” she said. 

City officials and regional authorities were also keen to bring the firm in as part of a wider trend that sees financial and professional services as the fastest growing industry sector in the Tampa metropolitan area. In 2016, Holland & Knight opened up its own back office facility in Tampa to host 240 nonlawyer employees.

“This announcement is a huge win for Tampa and further evidence that our city has what it takes to compete and attract major global operations,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a statement.

The center will host positions that range from entry level to global process leaders. Lawless said that the employees will include new hires as well as current members of the Baker McKenzie network interested in relocation.

Baker McKenzie hinted at the move in September when it announced it would begin a three-year assessment of its professional and business development teams across the globe. The firm said at the time that it would establish new service centers in both North America and Latin America.

Lawless would not say when the announcement of the Latin American location was expected.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the opening date and location of the Belfast center.