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Latham & Watkins becomes latest firm to ‘northshore’ with Manchester support office

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City law firms’ quest for lower overheads and staff costs continues

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The tide of City law firms launching “support” offices outside London continues to flow, with Latham & Watkins the latest to make a foray into the regions.

The US-based giant, which has a large London office offering 20 training contracts each year, will open up in Manchester in the next few months and look to have 25 staff in place there by the end of the year.

Initially those staff will not be lawyers or paralegals, with the office focusing on IT and technology support. But, in view of the growth in legal jobs we’ve seen at other City firms’ regional outposts, that could change. Rod Harrington, Latham’s chief administrative officer for Europe, commented:

“Our initial focus is on those two areas but that could grow over time.”

Harrington went on to indicate that launching in Manchester, where salaries and rents are around a third cheaper than in London, was not about cutting cost in the short term but laying the foundations for cheaper growth.

“It’s a long-term play, we’ve not been forced to do this for short-term cost cutting reasons, it’s about dealing with the significant growth at the firm which we expect to continue,” he said.

The news comes as Hogan Lovells launches a support office in Birmingham, following openings of similar initiatives by Allen & Overy, Herbert Smith Freehills and Baker & McKenzie in Belfast, Ashurst in Glasgow and Berwin Leighton Paisner in Manchester.

All of these offices offer legal services support, with A&O branching out from paralegal roles to hand out five training contracts (sorry, periods of recognised training) last year. This has coincided with a corresponding fall in London training contracts at the magic circle firm, where trainee numbers dropped this year from 90 to 85.

With pay expectations for law graduates far lower outside the big smoke, Legal Cheek will be watching closely to see if Latham follows its City peers into “northshoring” graduate legal jobs as its Manchester office grows.