Global law firm Ashurst set to meet target of 500 Glasgow jobs

INTERNATIONAL law firm Ashurst is on track to achieve its goal of creating 300 jobs within five years of opening its Glasgow legal and business support services centre.

The firm, which will receive a total of £2.4 million from Scottish Development International if it meets the target within five years of its August 2012 launch, now employs 230 people in its Waterloo Street base.

Mike Polson, managing partner of the office, said the firm is “very much on track” despite the legal world changing “dramatically in terms of efficiency and innovation” in the past three years.

“In the lead up to our launch we put together a target of 50 new roles over a five-year period,” he said.

“We had a lot of clarity around about 50 per cent of those roles but beyond that it was about how it developed.

“At the moment we have about 60 people who are very directly legal and the rest of the office works in seven business support areas including IT, HR, risk and compliance, and finance.”

The legal function is made up almost entirely of legal analysts but also has a finance partner in the shape of Michael Lancaster and several other qualified lawyers.

The legal analyst role is one that Ashurst created specifically for its Glasgow base and it is targeted at law graduates who are looking for an alternative to qualifying as a lawyer. In addition to a law degree, solicitors must complete a six-month diploma in professional legal practice followed by a two-year traineeship at a firm before being able to practise.

Mr Polson said the legal analyst role is where “law meets business meets technology and combines those skills together”.

“This is an alternative career path in the legal market and it is designed not to be a stepping stone to qualification like the paralegal role is,” he added.

To date, the team has handled early-stage legal work such as document review for litigation cases or due diligence for corporate and finance transactions, working with most of the firm’s 24 international offices, which are in 16 countries.

“The work is spread across the whole business,” Mr Polson said.

“Initially we thought a lot of our activity would be London linked because it’s our biggest office and its closest to us but it has all become very global much more quickly [than anticipated].

“The proposition is that any legal project is capable of being broken down into its constituent parts and that some of those can be lifted out to be delivered in a central base.

“The last time we ran the stats we were supporting 44 different product lines and we try to do that for as many offices as possible.”

Ashurst was one of the first London-headquartered international law firms to establish service centres in other parts of the UK, with the likes of Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills choosing Belfast as the site of their operations.

Mr Polson said his firm had decided on Glasgow despite the city being more expensive than Belfast because the talent pool of law graduates is so strong here.

Like Ashurst, the firms that chose to go to Ireland got regional development agency funding, in their case from Invest Northern Ireland.

Scottish Development International is the international arm of the Scottish Government’s economic development agencies, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and it exists to support international businesses’ investments in Scotland.

While the organisation will have paid Ashurst a total of £2.4m once all the jobs agreed have been created, with the sum being paid in traches each time the firm adds another 50 roles, Mr Polson noted that the investment on the part of the firm is significantly higher.

“What most people don’t realise is that that funding is about 15 per cent of the wages of the office over two years,” he said.

“We have to invest a significant amount – to get the total funding the employment investment is over £16m.

“We have committed to investing significantly in the local market.”

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