Hogan Lovells is set to transfer a large proportion of its support network to a new low-cost office in South Africa headed by COO Nick Cray.
The firm expects the Johannesburg base to house 20 employees when it opens in the second quarter of 2014, the majority of which will be new staff members.
A spokesperson said that no jobs are under threat, although confirmed that in future any London-based support roles might be moved to South Africa. It is understood that those working inside one unknown support services department might be expected to relocate. The firm would not elaborate on which department this is.
A small number of partners have known about the move for some time, with Hogan Lovells’ regional managing partner Susan Bright responsible for the firm’s UK and Africa strategy. There was no partner vote on the move, with staff informed of the new base today (3 February 2014).
Bright said in a statement: “We have concluded that a significant number of the business services we receive need to remain close to our lawyers. However, it is also clear that we have a number of roles that can be easily performed from a remote location but that in order to provide high-quality support we need to continue to provide it from locations in time zones on both sides of the Atlantic.
”We chose Johannesburg as it has an excellent supply of talented people, is well placed in terms of time zones and offers good opportunities for cost savings when compared to London and a number of our other existing office locations.”
The firm said its strategy with the office is “seed and grow” – meaning it will start with a small number of roles and gradually increase. It is currently recruiting for research and conflict roles.
Cray, who will be remaining in London for the role, added: “In almost all cases, roles will be transferred to Johannesburg only as and when people leave the firm. When a vacancy arises in London and in the future in other offices in Europe and Asia, we will evaluate whether that role could be done in South Africa instead.”
The Johannesburg-based office consists of 120 lawyers, including 40 partners, and specialises in corporate and commercial, litigation and dispute resolution, energy, mining and employment, with clients such as the South African government, businesses and subsidiaries of international corporates.