Herbert Smith to open Belfast office to handle disputes document review

Herbert Smith is set to launch a new base in Belfast to handle volume disputes work.

The office, which will open in April 2011, will focus on reviewing and analysing large volumes of documents from major contentious work, notably in litigation, arbitration and regulatory investigations.

The Belfast base, which will be wholly owned and controlled by Herbert Smith, will be led on the ground by Libby Jackson, a solicitor who currently holds a practice management role in London, but is set to relocate to Northern Ireland in early 2011.

Overall management responsibility will rest with the firm’s global disputes head Sonya Leydecker and London-based partner Jenny Stainsby, who hails from Northern Ireland. Herbert Smith will initially recruit and train around 20 fee earners to staff the office, including a mix of solicitors and legal assistants.

Clients will be given the option of using the operation in Belfast when discussing with the firm how their work is to be resourced.

Leydecker (pictured) commented: “This will enable us to offer clients a combination of quality, efficiency and value for money. Clients are increasingly looking to their lawyers for more imaginative approaches to the management of disputes.

“In particular, complex projects such as disclosure are important but can increasingly be systematised and managed in new ways. The Belfast office will make a new range of resourcing options available to clients.”

“Our associates carry out document review and analysis work alongside a number of other important tasks on cases. They will continue to be involved in this work but with the significant support they will now get from the team in Belfast.

“This is important because document review work can be very time-consuming. That this will enable them to focus more of their time on other elements of cases is a win-win for both our clients and our lawyers.”

The launch will see Herbert Smith receive financial and practical support from Northern Ireland’s regional economic development agency, Invest Northern Ireland.

The move comes after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer earlier this year kicked off discussions with national firms Mills & Reeve and TLT Solicitors to establish a referral system for low value work.

Other major firms including Baker & McKenzie and Clifford Chance have their own offshore service centres – in the Philippines and India respectively – which act as separate but wholly-owned subsidiaries handling low value work.

For more, see: Editor’s blog: How will law firms offshore?