Allen & Overy prepares to shift US and European support roles to Belfast base

Support staff across Allen & Overy’s (A&O) US and European offices will have their jobs moved to Belfast as the firm beefs up the role played by its Support Services Centre.

Belfast

Forty-three back office staff across A&O’s New York, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Milan, Paris and Rome offices will see their jobs moved to Belfast, with employees in the firm’s IT, business services, finance and marketing teams set to be affected. The firm said that no fee-earners are affected by the changes.

A&O has said that it will offer relocation packages where possible, with the intention of minimising job losses. The 43 jobs will be moved to Belfast in stages during 2013, bringing the Belfast headcount up to 350. A spokesperson for the firm said that redundancy packages would vary from office to office, but declined to give further details.

In addition to moving 43 roles from across Europe and the US to Belfast, A&O is looking to hire an additional 24 people in Belfast, in response to attrition. As a result the firm has received £348,000 in incentives from Invest Northern Ireland.

Managing partner Wim Dejonghe told The Lawyer that management had not yet decided whether – following reviews of its support staff function in London, Europe and the US – the firm would carry out a similar review of its back office functions in Asia. He added that there were no plans to review the business more generally in light of the recession.

“We launched our Belfast office about 18 months ago and, with the Support Services Centre fully operational and successfully delivering the quality service and cost savings we anticipated, it makes sense for us to look at where we can streamline our processes in other parts of the business, building on the economies of scale that Belfast provides us,” Dejonghe said.

“Each of our European and US offices has undertaken a review of its local support services. Today’s announcement follows the completion of those reviews. We understand that these changes will be difficult for those of our staff in each location who are affected, and we’re committed to supporting them and treating them fairly.

“But with low economic growth across many developed markets, we must ensure we’re operating in a way that will deliver the cost efficiencies our clients expect of us, so that we protect the long-term competitiveness of our business.”

A&O launched its Belfast office in 2011, when around 155 support staff in London left the firm after their jobs were moved to Northern Ireland (5 May 2012). In November, the firm widened the focus of the Belfast office to include fee-earners to work on M&A due diligence and dispute resolution discovery work (14 November 2011).