Dublin to become legal outsourcing hub post-Brexit

The first legal process outsourcing company to launch in the Republic of Ireland has opened its doors in Dublin, just weeks after Britain decided to leave the EU.

Now outsourcer Johnson Hana International (JHI) has revealed to The Lawyer it plans to grow its headcount in Dublin by 1,900 per cent from its current headcount of 10 to more than 200 staff on the back of an uptick in work from law firms post Brexit.

JHI said it was opening in Dublin to provide cheaper back office work for law firms and in-house teams that had traditionally farmed work out to Northern Ireland.

The launch comes at the same time as it emerged a number of UK law firms are also looking to open their doors in Dublin.

Pinsent Masons is one such firm, which is currently in the market for 10,000sq ft of office space in the capital. The office would be the firm’s first in the Republic of Ireland and would be large enough to eventually house between 50 and 100 members of staff.

Eversheds’ consultancy arm, Eversheds Consulting, also moved forward with plans to launch in Ireland in the wake of the referendum result after losing out on a pitch to a rival firm headquartered in the EU.

The pull of Northern Ireland as a low-cost base for legal services and back office work has been traditionally strong among UK law firms. But Dublin could be set to overtake it in the wake of the EU referendum as it becomes a much-needed gateway into Europe.

JHI CEO Dan Fox told The Lawyer the smart money has turned the spotlight squarely on Dublin.

“We’re going to see further growth over the coming months,” Fox said. “We were getting queries from law firms pre-Brexit and now we’re getting emails and calls all the time as businesses consider the Republic of Ireland for the first time.

“Our mission is to turn Dublin into the data review hub of Europe.”

JHI provides legal services to a number of local Irish law firms and as well as in-house teams such as electric company ESB and Siemens UK. The business carries out process driven work for litigation, compliance and contract law, as well as doing due diligence work for M&A.

A number of leading Irish lawyers have joined the outsourcer including former Maples and Calder Ireland managing partner Jennifer Caldwell and ex-Matheson litigation partner Stuart Margetson, who joined JHI as a consultant.

In the past London firms have opened back offices in Northern Ireland in an attempt to carry out process-driven work at lower cost. Herbert Smith Freehills implemented this strategy in 2010 when it opened a back office centre in Belfast was designed to handle a colossal stream of litigation due diligence work. Since then the firm has used its Belfast office to launch a 240-lawyer worldwide alternative legal services business.

Allen & Overy also opened its own service centre in Belfast in 2011, subsequently transferring around 180 support staff to Northern Ireland as part of the launch.

Now BLM is considering increasing the size of its Dublin office by up to 60 per cent. The firm currently occupies 3,500sq ft but the firm’s Ireland head Peter Campbell said that he was considering larger offices with up to 5,500sq ft available.