After becoming the first Western firm to open an alternative legal services (ALT) hub in China, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is to launch a new centre in Melbourne, as well as maintain a permanent presence in Perth, following the success of its ALT ‘pop-up’ which launched last October.
The Melbourne hub, which will launch in November, will be initially staffed by around 65 employees, including up to 50 fee earners, but the ambition is to reach 100 staff in the next three to five years. HSF’s Perth offering currently has 45 staff, but this is unlikely to grow further, with the possibility that the office will actually decrease in size.
Speaking to Legal Business, Patrick St John, HSF’s managing partner of strategic implementation said that the goal was to open a more substantive office in Australia in separate premises.
‘We just looked around all the different cities and Melbourne landed best in terms of the pool of talent and the cost and the premises were nice and close to the city – it ticked all the boxes for us.
‘We don’t want to close Perth, we’ve got a good team, it’s in a good time zone, and we’ve still got the space there. So we’ve just decided lets go with both. But Melbourne will certainly be the main centre for the region.’
Libby Jackson, HSF’s global head of alternative legal services added: ‘In terms of fitting the pieces together, across the world with the 24-hour service cycle, it all seemed to work really well with Perth still in the mix. That is one of the exciting parts of this story – it hasn’t been thinking about where we are, but more about our service delivery strategy globally.’
Earlier this month HSF launched a 13-member team of lawyers and legal analysts, bilingual in Mandarin and English, in the firm’s Shanghai office. The business combines legal expertise, process efficiency and client technology solutions to process high-volume or document-intensive work more cost effectively.
The move marks a further rolling out of HSF’s ALT team, which employs some 350 lawyers, legal assistants and technologists across Belfast, London, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Brisbane. Belfast, which launched in 2011 as a purely alternative legal services hub, has so far been at the centre of HSF’s bid to deconstruct legal work, and covers document review, due diligence, claims assessment, commercial contracts and asset management for real estate clients.