A&O boss vows to limit job cuts as firm transfers support function to Belfast

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  • Considering most of the staff are from London and wouldn't move to Northern Ireland then it's easy to see what they are doing. Most of the staff will be made redundant and A&O will recruit in NI. Here we see another example of poor American organisational planning. Some of the IT rolls are quite specialised and they will not be able to service A&O lawyers as well. God help the CEO when they loose big clients because their IT goes down or worse is hacked.

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  • Baker & McKenzie seem to manage to have a fully-functioning IT function without it breaking down all the time - and their entire back office is in Manilla!

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  • Dejonghe says cutting costs is not the main driver for this. So what is his point? That northshoring to Belfast guarantees better quality than offshoring to India? Or is the reality that it is actually cheaper to open in Belfast than start from scratch in India. Plus, if they follow Herbies, salaries will start at a base of £10 an hour. So to say it is not about cost cutting is ridiculous, just be open about it and tell us how you plan to pass any cost savings onto the client.

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  • A brilliant idea.....Belfast is a wonderful place (been there on holiday a few times) house prices are cheaper, schools are better and the overall quality of life much better than London......I for one am looking forward to re-locating

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  • Sure, clients vigorously want A&O to open up in Belfast. Another obvious redundancy program without having the balls to be honest about it.

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  • They've already said that costs will be cut. It's no surprise really - makes business sense. I'd expect more firms to follow suit.

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  • Anonymous@ 10:54 am - Why do cost savings have to be passed on the client? Why can't a firm keep them for themselves? There are plenty of pressures from clients to drive fees down. Firms are perfectly entitled to make costs savings. One could argue that the more profitable a firm is, the better able it is to attract top talent.

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  • A&O are no doubt well aware that NI lawyers will flock to them despite the inevitably miniscule salary (Herbert Smith are paying less than a cleaner gets) as there's nothing else going except unpaid training contracts, unpaid NQ roles, 10k a year conveyancing paralegal roles or the dole.

    @Anonymous | 3-Feb-2011 11:10 am, house prices are, a bit, lower but that's offset by the fact that salaries, especially in the legal sector, are much lower.

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  • How is this not a cost saving exercise? If it's not then what can justify uprouting staff or making them redundant. I would always think that a better service is provided with the support staff functions onsite rather than moving them to a different country. This cycle of change constantly happens and then services are brought back in because it doesn't work.

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  • Cutting costs is not the main driver, MY ASS. A&O always used to be transparent about this sort of thing, but this is a new low. How do they think they can get away with presenting the Belfast office as some wonderful life opportunity for librarians and legal excecs? It's all about the bottom line, stoopid.

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  • The comment 'Some of the IT rolls are quite specialised and they will not be able to service A&O lawyers as well. God help the CEO when they loose big clients because their IT goes down or worse is hacked' is patronising, bordering on offensive.
    Northern Ireland produces exceptional IT graduates who often have to move to London to find suitable employment. Also, with one of the best broadband infrastructures in the world, connectivity is not a problem.

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  • Opening a new office in Belfast as part of the companies growth plan. Total pants. They have put some of their support staff in London through hoops of fire in the past few years and haven't even completed the last restructure of communications before deciding that a Northern Ireland voice is better for the client (or should we say cheaper) than a London voice.
    Gone will be the halycyon days of calling A&O and getting those clipped London tones and speedy answers, and in comes accents we will struggle with, they will struggle with - how does that improve client satisfaction. Mind you it could have been worse - Allen & Overy in Mumbai tones.....
    Come on A&O be upfront.

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  • Document Production in Bishops Square were their usual helpful, competent selves last night. Gonna miss 'em when they're replaced by someone who's been in the job 5 minutes and is still trying to learn their way around the systems.

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  • @ IHateBPP- not you again. bleat bleat bleat. just noise

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  • Of course it's a cost savings exercise - and they've even put a number out there (10m in 5 years?). I presume their point is that they could have saved a shed-load more by heading to India or wherever. Belfast is a pretty good call on balance - if you have to do it at all.
    Who will be next?

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  • Completely agree with above. Since when is 10m in 5 years (and presumably more per annum after that) not a significant amount to save?
    I think the point is that savings are a part of the thinking but that if it was just about getting these services as cheap as possible then other options were available. c/f Camerons/Integreon for example

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  • ALL I WANT TO SAY IS THAT
    THEY DONT REALLY CARE
    ABOUT US

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  • @Jonny:
    There are already plenty of Northern Irish and Indian employees at A&O. Harking after times gone past when they wouldn't have been considered for a position is bordering on a different R-word.

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  • "Gone will be the halycyon days of calling A&O and getting those clipped London tones and speedy answers, and in comes accents we will struggle with, they will struggle with - how does that improve client satisfaction."
    A surprisingly valid point, it's very true that the English (although I don't know why) do struggle to understand the accent of many NI people, lawyers or otherwise, and especially those from more rural areas. A&O will certainly struggle to find their beloved public school accents in Belfast.

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  • @Jonny Monroe
    "...in comes accents we will struggle with, they will struggle with".
    Yes people in Belfast communicate through a series of grunts and snorts, only comprehensible by their own kind.
    *rolls eyes*

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  • "Some of the IT rolls are quite specialised and they will not be able to service A&O lawyers as well. God help the CEO when they loose big clients because their IT goes down or worse is hacked."
    What an idiotic statement. You southern types have some highly inflated opinions of yourselves. Do a little bit of research about the quality of IT services and graduates from NI before you start spouting tripe like this.

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  • Hahahahaha! Not cost saving my ar*e. Hope it goes t*ts up

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  • What I don't understand is this, A&O pride themselves on their quality of service, innovation and its people.
    Asking over 50% of their 'valued people' to relocate to Belfast is not 'innovative' and will by no means enhance its 'quality of service', so why else would a successful law firm wish to migrate support services?... Unfortunately it's plain to see that costs is the only real driver in this decision.
    A high percentage of london based staff are not going to relocate to Belfast, so this means cheaper NI counterparts will be recruited - what a slap in the face to their loyal, hard working 'people'.
    I could understand this decision if the firm was going through some financial hardship but record financial results have been reported - even through a recession!
    c'mon guys

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  • Looks like February becomes the traditional redundancy month at A&O. Anyway, cost cutting measures are always done when profits cannot be increased by incoming business. So, this story tells a bit on business prospects at the moment...

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  • Do the fee earners realise that when they achieve their goal of outsourcing all the support staff that there will still be 2 serious things to worry about:
    1. Who will pick up their dirty towels from the floor of the in-house gym.
    2. When there are no fee eaters left to outsource, the fee earners will need to outsource from within their own ranks.


    If you listen carefully you will hear the sound of the wind passing through empty heads.

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  • I personally am shocked and appauled at the decision to do this!! And how dare the ppl upstairs make the decision to review the roles to see what can be done from Belfast, they're so high up that they couldn't care what is done in our daily roles, they just want us to get on with it to get their bonuses, it's ridiculous and I won't be staying 1 minute longer than I have to!!!

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  • Hey, let's not underplay for a moment how unpleasant this is for the people affected. But by the same token, under any objective analysis there is obvious commercial logic. Central London must be just about the most expensive place in the world to employ some of these people so is it any surprise that companies look elsewhere? Law firms are way behind the curve compared to other big businesses!

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  • The remaining support staff in London shouldn't sit too comfortably as in a year or two when the Belfast office is established you can be sure the rest of the jobs will be shipped there. You know the scenario, get the London staff to teach those in Belfast all they know and then 'hey presto' no job. It's a sad fact that loyalty and hard work don't count in the workplace any more (except if you're a lawyer of course).

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  • All the big firms have moved jobs out of central London, or will be doing it. CC and Camerons in India, Links in Colchester and India, Baker Mac in Manilla, Herbies and A&O in Belfast. All their major clients have done the same. Nothing unusual or to be ashamed of.
    What is just awful is the line that cost saving is not the driver which is just an insult to our intelligence. I think he was trying to say that they could have saved even more in India or Manilla but so what - if you are redundant you don't really care where your job ends up.
    He goes on to say they are not prepared to compromise on quality with the implication that moving jobs outside the UK would have led to reduced quality. Is he suggesting that all his banking clients who have moved their back offices to India have compromised on quality? Are his own Asian offices sub-standard?
    Pretty poorly thought out statement really.

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  • George, the partners obviously figure they need another ivory backscratcher. Things are different to your day, mate!
    Anyway, we have people at 200% busyness and scrambling for warm bodies to throw at deals. That decision to sack have the firm not two years ago is looking really sensible now, isn't it fellas?

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  • @ Jonny Monroe & IHateBPP
    I find these comments on accents utterly offensive and ridiculous- if they were opening an office in Edinburgh or Manchester would you be making the same type of comment?
    And what is this about "clipped English accents" and public school accents- many, many people working at A&O's London office currently do not have this accent, many having the virtually imcomprehensive Northern Irish accent that you refer to. I worry about how your mind works- don't you realise that what you say shows more than an element of racism.

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  • Posting as a resident of Northern Ireland, it’s quite disappointing to see many of the comments in relation to accents and quality of potential staff. Not to mention the general impression that the Belfast move will attract monkeys who A&O will pay peanuts!
    In relation to the quality of IT personnel, Northern Ireland has attracted investment from some of the largest names in finance and also IT who have been drawn by the quality of personnel in the region. In addition, many of these firms/businesses spend an absolute fortune merely attempting to attract personnel to their IT functions as the calibre of candidate is so high. A&O would be lucky to have any of our IT experts on their books, some of whom (and I speak of personal contacts) are leading thinkers in their particular specialism’s!
    Secondly, it is quite disappointing that this announcement has been presented in the local news as bringing 300 jobs to Belfast - creating the impression of newly created roles and giving 'hope' to our unemployed masses and attempting to justify the sum of money that Invest NI have used to tempt A&O to the region. The message which is conveyed in other media sources paints quite a different picture.
    It’s just a shame that what should be good news for a struggling region hasn’t been presented in its true light and ‘masks’ what will potentially be bad news for many others. Typical back covering on all counts it would seem!

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  • As a free market capitalist, i was all in favour of this - until i learned that highly-profitable A&O had the gall to accept a taxpayer funded subsidy to pay for it.
    Yes, this move is being part-funded to the tune of millions of pounds by Invest NI, who presumably thought magic circle partners weren't rich enough to pay for this move themselves.

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  • What about ya. All you posters have faces like Lurgan spades…like!
    Great move by A&O. NI is superb choice for this initiative. Great for the NI economy and great for the A&O bottom line– that is what is about at the end of the day (oh come of it, did you think it was anything different!).
    We welcome all the support staff who relocate to the glorious City of Belfast with open arms. You are most welcome and we hope you enjoy your stay and avail yourselves of all that this great City has to offer – culture, decent schools, a seat on the train and great craic. See you soon. BTW – 10 nicker goes quite a long way outside London (3 pints of Guinness for the IT boys or 3 Bicardi Breezers for the secretaries) – fill your boots/stilettos.

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  • Great news.
    Competition is always good.
    Belfast has lots of brand new state of the art office space AND great talent just waiting to be snapped up.
    This might even help persuade the Cityu Airport to extend the runway as there will be increased air traffic.
    Overall Terrific news!

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  • The best bit is that all of this is part funded by the UK tax payer via Invest NI, who have provided £2.5m worth of funding.

    http://www.investni.com/about-news.htm?newsid=15564.

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  • @Anonymous | 3-Feb-2011 9:34 pm, I'm just stating what many English people have said about NI accents being hard to understand and given that my own has been joking described as being "like that of a Belfast gangster" I don't see how there's any element of racism.

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  • Oh, look. Hebert Smith have been at it too:

    http://www.investni.com/about-news.htm?newsid=15238.

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  • I worked for a company that outsourced support functions to India...Picture this! I was on level 8 in the building, if I had systems issues I'd contact someone in India who'd notify someone sitting on the floor below me...efficiency savings? Cr*p!
    I'd be interested how A&O derived the £10M saving over 5 years and if this is just onsite transference costs - i.e. the difference in costs having staff offsite rather than onsite. Let alone savings in wages. Yes law firms are under pressure from clients to reduce fees however, the reality is they've enjoyed hundreds of years of exuberant fees and lavish wealth and now finally, an informed client base are pressuring law firms to align their fee structures more realistically and for the real world....payback's a b*tch!

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  • Baker & McKenzie seem to manage to have a fully-functioning IT function without it breaking down all the time - and their entire back office is in Manilla!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    Understand the emotion around this subject but this is factually incorrect. We have successfully offshored to Manila from a number of our offices various business processes. To say our entire "back office" operates from there is a gross overstatement.

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  • @Anonymous at 6:20 and others
    Only £2.5m? As a free market economist you should stay all in favour. Every penny of that will be recouped promptly in tax, employment (reduced benefits etc) and other investments. Everywhere that A&O looked will have offered them incentives to go there. That's peanuts to keep these jobs in the UK and the move from A&O will attract plenty of other interest too. As the government turn off the tap of public funding to NI they desperately have to attract private employers and this fits the bill rather well, I'd say.

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  • Great move A&O - nice bit of business in the January transfer window (almost). Skin the taxpayer for £2.5m, dump most fo your London support staff and hire cheaper and better staff at NI rates. Nice one - I'm deadly serious, I'm Northern Irish and am very supportive of the efforts of Invest NI to spearhead outsourcing to the Province.

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  • "Only £2.5m? As a free market economist you should stay all in favour. Every penny of that will be recouped promptly in tax, employment (reduced benefits etc) and other investments"
    Presumably it simply replaces the unemployed people in Belfast with unemployed people in London. And due to the lower wages in NI, the tax revenue from such people will be lower.....

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  • Presumably so . . . but not as low as UK tax receipts for jobs in Budapest or Manila. Free market economics works regionally as well as nationally.

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  • A&O already outsource to India and Manilla and we all know what a superb service they have provided so hopefully Belfast will be equally successful!!

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  • If memory serves, the recently retired Senior Partner was an Ulsterman. His accent didn't hold him back....

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  • How can you hope to limit redundancies when you are giving your valued (lol) support services Hobson's choice. A&O is fully aware that they are forcing people out of their jobs and then has the gall to hide this fact behind the statement that they are creating 250+ new jobs in Belfast - at the cost of your London staff. As if making a billion pounds wasn't already sufficient, A&O wants to relocate to Belfast to save money, treating their support staff disgracefully in the procss. How about the 450+ partners don't take seven figure salaries to help reduce client fees...don't suppose that was an option.

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  • As one of the old girls of the firm, working my way up from the typing pool of Cheapside to the not so heady heights of a PA to an every increasing workload of partners I am shocked. Have just heard that in future if I want to arrange a conference, book meeting room or simply ask the switchboard to connect me to somewhere it will all be done in Belfast. Nothing against Northern Ireland but these girls and boys are always so helpful and cheery on the phone and know there stuff. They had a clear out last year and let the crown jewels go and just as a new team started to get to understand our needs as users they get replaced. Total disgrace. The switchboard/room bookings team are not the highest of paid staff but are the voice of our firm and we can treat them so badly. I feel physically sick to hear it. Managing Parter??? wish he would go manage something else. The old guard may be getting on but they knew their stuff - the bunch of over paid, ego inflated fee earners may make shed loads of money for the firm, but believe me they get handsomely rewarded - unlike the poor switchboard folks and us mere secretaries.... 28 years at A&O and thought I had walked into a different firm today. Tut tut bad form for such loyalty and dedication to the client. Oh well nothing we can do about it but guess I will have to go and polish one of many ego inflated 007's halos !!

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  • Almost thought this was a Halliwells' thread it had so many upset responses on it.

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  • to Miss Moneypenny - don't forget all the poor document production staff - the PA's won't be able to get their work done while they pop out to lunch, they won't have anyone to log on to their machines when they're stuck with a document and don't know what to do - oh wait a minute - phone Belfast LOL

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