Major law firms continue to appropriate ideas from legal process outsourcing with Ashurst today (12 June) announcing a venture to create a 150-strong unit in Glasgow to support its practice.
The venture, which will launch later this year, will cover back office support and volume legal work, initially covering areas like document review in litigation and corporate.
Ashurst will create a new title of legal analyst to handle legal work currently undertaken by paralegals, trainees and junior associates. However, the firm does not expect any lawyer redundancies. The unit is expected to comprise around 120 support staff and 30 legal analysts.
The firm will now start a consultation with its 350 London support staff, which is expected to last 45 days.
The unit, which will be headed by former Dundas & Wilson partner Mike Polson, will initially focus on supporting the City firm’s work in London before moving to cover the law firm’s global network.
Ashurst managing partner James Collis commented: ‘The shape of the legal services market is changing and clients want their law firms to take responsibility for efficient sourcing of services without compromising on quality. We believe that our new venture in Scotland will be of great benefit to the firm and its clients. We have been looking at this for some time and, unfortunately, this has also required us to make some difficult decisions in relation to our business support services. Ultimately, however, we need to have the right people, with the right skills, doing the right work in the right location.
‘Consistency and continuous improvement in service quality are key to our business. By creating a legal centre of excellence focusing on a structured approach to these areas of recurring work, we can build up expertise, reduce timescales and enable other parts of the Ashurst network to focus on more complex matters.’
Polson commented: ‘We believe the office will help to shape an alternative legal model and career structure in Scotland, benefiting from the high number of exceptional legal graduates. Ashurst has some bold aspirations for the office and I am thoroughly looking forward to playing a part in this project and delivering on our twin goals of excellence and innovation.’
The move – which comes after Ashurst undertook an analysis of several alternative global options – has been supported by a regional selective assistance grant from Scottish Enterprise. Ashurst has no plans to move into Scots law or compete with Scots law firms.
Scottish Enterprise chief executive Lena Wilson commented: ‘This project will deliver high quality, permanent jobs to the Scottish legal sector while supporting one of our key development areas. We’re very pleased to have been instrumental in attracting such a high-calibre employer to locate in Scotland, particularly against significant competition. We look forward to continuing to work in partnership with Ashurst as it establishes its Scottish base.’
Under the venture, the firm is to enter into a consultation with support staff in London. The office is expected to cover some back office support in IT, business development, finance, HR, risk, compliance and knowledge management and will ultimately be used to provide support across other practice lines.
The move echoes previous initiatives from Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills in setting up sizeable support operations in Belfast as a means of lowering costs. Law firms have come under increased pressure from clients to deliver better value since the banking crisis of 2008 and have often argued that such ventures are warmly received by general counsel at major bluechips.