With international law firms intent on carving up pricey mandates so that chunks can be processed more mechanically by cheaper teams, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has become the first Western firm to open an alternative legal services hub in China.
A 13-member team of lawyers and legal analysts bilingual in Mandarin and English has been set up 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.
‘A complex transaction or dispute can involve the review of millions of Chinese-language documents that often must remain in China,’ said Libby Jackson, HSF’s global head of alternative legal services. ‘By equipping this new team with the technology and processes proven at our existing legal hubs in Belfast and Perth, we can offer clients a cost-effective way of tackling the document-intensive elements of these projects on the ground in China.’
The move marks a further rolling out of HSF’s alternative legal services 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, which covers document review, due diligence, claims assessment, commercial contracts and asset management for real estate clients. The launch of a team in Shanghai expands the programme at a time when Mandarin is increasing as a business language and provides a more cost-effective offering in a legal market that has to date been poorly monetised.
‘This innovation of a new centre in Shanghai helps us deliver on the firm’s commitment to providing innovative and cost-effective service delivery options to our clients. It is part of our new strategy launched earlier this year, and continues the pioneering work we have done in the alternative delivery of our services to clients,’ said global co-chief executive Sonya Leydecker.