Herbies goes flexible in Belfast

The development of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Belfast support base is continuing apace with today’s news of a flexible, part-time working initiative in Northern Ireland.

The firm has launched a new team – with the gimmicky name of ‘Respond’ – with an initial group of 12 law graduates who will work part-time within the Belfast support centre. The team, all employed as legal assistants, get a salary, training and benefits. They also get to work flexibly while they do other things, such as studying or looking after a family.

Like earlier initiatives in Belfast, HSF has worked alongside Invest Northern Ireland to develop the scheme. However office director Libby Jackson says that the investment agency has not put any money into Respond. Rather, she sees it as a way to get extra bodies on board when work gets busy with the knowledge they are properly trained, while providing a few more jobs in what remains an embattled economy with far too many young people who want to be lawyers for the number of jobs available.

Not that many of the people who come into either HSF or Allen & Overy’s Belfast bases as legal assistants will get to be lawyers. HSF has just given training contracts to three Belfast assistants, but that’s not the core aim of the office. Rather, it is designed to keep providing that back-office support at as low a cost as possible.

But with so many people out of work in Northern Ireland – 8.1 per cent of the population in May – anything that provides a few more jobs can’t be a bad thing.

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