Ashurst’s low cost support base in Scotland is expanding faster than expected, with the firm planning to more than quadruple the number of legal analysts based in the city within the next 12 months.
The firm’s Glasgow office currently houses 100 employees, 13 of which are ‘legal analysts’ and the remainder back office staff. However, the growth of the office is gaining pace and it expects to contain 30 legal analysts by mid-summer, and 60 by February 2015.
It means the base will become the fourth largest in Ashurst’s global network, behind London, Sydney and Melbourne.
The establishment of Ashurst’s Glasgow office was announced last June, following discussions between Ashurst and Scottish Development International (SDI), a joint venture between the Scottish Government and its economic development agencies (12 June 2013).
SDI agreed to give Ashurst £2.4m in public funding if it reaches 300 Glasgow staff within five years.
At the time, managing partner James Collis described the target as “ambitious”, but the firm’s accelerated expansion suggests that the figure could be reached ahead of schedule.
Glasgow office head Mike Polson said: “The hardest part of the job is managing supply and demand. We could’ve hired more people but we’re building for the long-term so we need solid foundations.”
The office’s cohort of legal analysts – a new position for the firm covering elements of trainee and paralegal roles – are not necessarily qualified lawyers but are law graduates.
However, as part of its growth strategy, the firm is considering introducing a raft of qualified lawyers to the office. They are likely to have a leadership capacity, overseeing teams of analysts who divide their time across the Ashurst’s various work streams.
Polson added that the firm intends to increase the quality of work done in Scotland over the coming years. While its analysts are currently invested primarily in document production and data rooms, they will take on increasingly complex work such as drafting contracts and documentation.
It will also branch out further across the firm’s various geographies. The Glaswegian outpost took on its first project for Ashurst’s Paris office this month, and is currently in talks with Frankfurt regarding dealing some of its legal work.
The office may well take on work from every Ashurst office in future, including its Australian bases, recently bolted on thanks to its merger with legacy Blake Dawson (26 September 2013).
In a separate move, the firm is eyeing establishing a “partnership arrangement” with its clients’ in-house teams, offering to work on aspects of their legal functions from its Glasgow base.
“It’d be an easy conversation to have as general counsel are under the same business pressures and challenges as private practice,” said Polson.
Last October, Ashurst cut over 120 support staff roles from its London base – offering all staff affected the opportunity to relocate their jobs to Glasgow for a reduced salary (4 October 2013). Only about five employees ultimately took up the offer.