Joining the ranks of law firms scouring the globe for low-cost locations suitable for handling support work, London-based Ashurst announced Wednesday that it plans to establish an office in Glasgow that will house 150 employees within a year of opening.
While the vast majority of those workers will perform back-office functions within the IT, finance, human resources, business development, and risk and compliance departments, 30 of those assigned to the office will hold the newly created title "legal analyst" and will devote themselves to routine aspects of client work.
Ashurst managing partner James Collis calls the legal analyst job a hybrid position that falls somewhere between paralegal and junior lawyer. And though the creation of those jobs won’t affect current Ashurst staff, Collis says the firm will make some layoffs as certain functions are shifted to Glasgow when the office opens later this year, Collis says.
The entire operation will be overseen by Michael Polson, a corporate lawyer who resigned from Scottish law firm Dundas & Wilson last year and joined Ashurst in January.
Collis says 191-year-old Ashurst considered various locations around the United Kingdom and the rest of the world (he noted that the firm’s Australian arm works with an outsourcing provider in South Africa) before settling on Glasgow as the site of the new office. He says the firm was drawn to Scotland’s largest city because of the high quality of its workforce, the number of available university graduates, its infrastructure, and the strength of the local legal industry, among other factors.
"It’s a significant moment for the firm," says Collis, adding that it came "as a response to client demand." It also came with a grant of up to £2.4 million ($3.6 million) over the next five years from the Scottish government, contingent on what Collis calls "very ambitious" job-creation goals.
Ashurst has 1,700 lawyers in 14 countries, including six offices in Australia that it gained through a 2012 merger with Black Dawson. Collis says that once the Glasgow office gets to full capacity, it will be the firm’s largest location outside of London and Australia.
A handful of other British firms, including Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith, have launched offices for support functions in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the United States, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe led the trend toward moving support operations to less costly locales more than a decade ago by opening an office in Wheeling, West Virginia. More recently, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman opened a similar outpost in Nashville; Bingham McCutchen has moved jobs to Lexington, Kentucky; and Kaye Scholer is in the process of transferring some operations to Tallahassee.