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First the BBC. now the legal profession. where next for north-shoring?

18/10/2016
Posted by: Lauren Connors

Despite the wide range of opportunities for lawyers at all levels across the North of England, there is still a largely unspoken feeling within the profession that London is still the career hub for the brightest and most ambitious. But is this finally set to change?

Opportunities abound in the north

The idea of ‘near-shoring’ among major law firms is not a new one. Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy were the first to bite the bullet and establish business support centres in the UK in 2011, both electing for Belfast as the base for the new ventures. Since then several others such as Hogan Lovells, Mills & Reeve and CMS Cameron McKenna have followed suit with centres in Birmingham, Norwich and Bristol respectively. And now Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is following in the footsteps of the BBC to develop a centre in Manchester which will, at least initially, house some 300 business service roles. When a firm like this one, which has been wedded to the City of London for so long, moves a key part of its operations to the north-west it’s a strong indicator that this is not some ‘flash in the pan’ phenomenon, but the beginning of a significant trend.

New Manchester hubs

The reasons behind the move are obvious and perhaps somewhat more prosaic than the Beeb’s desire to fend off criticisms of being too London-centric. Office space in Manchester is currently around half the cost of that in Central London and salaries are also significantly lower. While the team that staffs the Manchester office will largely be made up of paralegals and support specialists from non-legal disciplines such as IT and HR in the early stages, there are some commentators who are wondering whether the move could be part of a more significant shift in the deployment of all professional roles. Freshfields has already signalled that it is keeping ‘all its options open’ as to office accommodation after its London lease expires in 2021. And the ongoing commitment to HS2 by almost everyone with a chance of forming a government in the foreseeable future may finally break the undue influence exercised by the capital in the profession.

Whether we will see a major migration of talent to the north in the near future is of course up for debate. Any attempt at a really serious redeployment of roles out of the south-east would most likely face the sort of challenges that Auntie faced when trying to persuade its management and ‘talent’ to swap the metropolis for Salford Quays. However, one thing is certain. For the ambitious and capable legal professionals  any level, London is most certainly not the only career option any more.

Career events in the north

We run a series of career events across the country -including the north west so why not take a look at the programme - it could be the best move you ever make!

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