Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is understood to have marked its entry into the Manchester market by hoovering up the city’s paralegal resources, leaving other firms understaffed.

The magic circle outfit is paying above the market rate for junior paralegals and is understood to be searching for LPC graduates with stellar academics and around six months of paralegal experience, offering starting salaries of £23,000.

Regular Manchester salaries for entry-level paralegals at top firms hover around the £18,000 mark.

While the firm has enlisted recruitment agencies to help it staff the office at other levels, it has been able to recruit paralegals directly due to its higher salaries and has done so via open days and advertising at careers fairs.

The Manchester paralegal market is still developing, with national firms in the city only taking on large paralegal teams in the last two years. Addleshaw Goddard and Berwin Leighton Paisner are currently Manchester’s primary employers of large numbers of general commercial paralegals.

One source said that Freshfields has been eyeing specific, well-populated paralegal teams but both Addleshaws and BLP said that the magic circle’s recruitment had not had an impact on their paralegal resources.

Freshfields is due to open its Manchester base this summer, housing its staff in Arndale House, part of the Arndale shopping centre, in the short term.

The firm has not yet announced how many people it will recruit in total, but sources say it could be as many as 400. Fifteen top level roles in IT and business services including a global reporting HR manager, HR services manager and IT support team lead have been advertised.

Freshfields declined to comment.