Herbies expands Belfast with flexible working initiative

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has launched a part-time, flexible working team in its Belfast office as it further expands the team in Northern Ireland.

A team of 12 graduates have been recruited to work on a flexible part-time basis as legal assistants, particularly during busy periods and when there is an urgent deadline to be met. Known as ‘Respond’, the team will get ongoing training, professional development and career programmes.

The announcement follows the December news that HSF was expanding the services in Belfast beyond litigation support to corporate and property due diligence (5 December 2012).

The Respond team adds extra capability to the office beyond the current full-time staff. HSF now employs 114 people in Belfast, including 107 fee-earners, with 34 of those having joined the firm this summer to assist with a large project.

HSF worked with Invest Northern Ireland to develop the Respond team. Invest NI has previously provided subsidies of £734,000 (30 June 2011) to support the creation of jobs at HSF in Belfast, and has also subsidised the creation of Allen & Overy’s Northern Irish support office.

Belfast office director Libby Jackson said the firm had not received any extra subsidies to support the roll-out of Respond.

“There are so many bright young people in Northern Ireland who want to be lawyers and there aren’t the roles for them,” Jackson said. She said HSF and its clients would benefit from the initiative, but she also hoped it would provide more opportunities to law graduates.

“It’s a way of building up an expertly-trained group of people who’ll come in for longer periods to cover a project that needs to be done especially quickly,” Jackson explained. “It’s really to give the flexibility to the business without compromising the quality of the work.”

Jackson said the “energy and enthusiasm” of the first Respond team members meant the firm was now planning to expand the initiative and recruit a “balanced” team of qualified lawyers and legal assistants by the autumn of this year. While the first group to be recruited are all working as legal assistants, a paralegal-equivalent role, Jackson said the new recruits would include lawyers who were seeking a more flexible work-life balance.