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Freshfields closes German IT support team as Manchester hub set to hit 300 staff in 2016

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is stripping back its worldwide support network in favour of its new Manchester back-office centre as it closes its global IT and helpdesk function in Germany.

The news comes as figures finally emerge from the firm around how many staff currently reside at the firm’s new support and legal outpost in Manchester. The new hub, called the Global Centre, houses between 70 and 75 staff members at its temporary Arndale Centre location, and is expected to grow rapidly to 300 employees by mid-2016 – more than a threefold headcount increase over the next seven months.

Plans are the Global Centre will offer international legal support to its offices worldwide, with the bulk of the German IT function closing, affecting 30 employees.

Stephan Eilers, incoming co-managing partner, said: ‘The firm has closed down parts of IT in Germany and has transferred work to Manchester. It’s not only an efficiency thing but a better way of working together. It’s about allocating things that can be better done in Manchester to Manchester.’

The firm plans to extend this function to other international offices, offering a 24/7 service, starting with Europe and Asia. ‘We are looking very closely at Manchester,’ said Asia managing partner Robert Ashworth. ‘The function is designed to ensure clients and lawyers in Asia get the benefit of services in a different time zone – a 24/7 capability. We are looking to maximise the full capacity in Manchester.’

The hub will accommodate legal services staff, as well as human resources, IT, marketing and business development, office management, document specialists and change management.

The firm will move to a permanent location at One New Bailey in Salford at the beginning of 2017, double the size of its current base after it leased out 80,000 sq ft of office space. Freshfields plans to roll out two more international hubs within the next five years with one in the US and one in Asia.

The launch has been a controversial move for Freshfields, having transferred or made redundant a number of back-office employees at its Fleet Street headquarters. While the redundancy consultation with individuals has closed, the firm has refused to confirm how many were laid off.

The closing down of the IT function in Germany follows the announcement that Freshfields will close either its Cologne or Düsseldorf office in a bid to consolidate its German operation.

For more on management changes and challenges at Freshfields, subscribers can read: ‘The last champions – meet the leaders intent on sealing Freshfields’ place in the global elite.’