Global giant Baker & McKenzie is to open a second low-cost support centre in Belfast, employing up to 250 people by 2017.

The Belfast operation will undertake legal work and provide business services support, facilitating round-the-clock services across time zones and reduce dependency on a single location.

The firm is recruiting staff and securing premises for the centre, which will begin operations in September.

It is expected to include around 120 professionals by the end of its first year of operation, rising to between 200 and 250 after three years. Initially, around two-thirds of those employed will be in business services support and one-third legal staff.

Baker & McKenzie's global director of operations, Jason Marty, is relocating from Chicago to Belfast to serve as the centre's initial executive director.

Baker & McKenzie opened its first global services centre in Manila in the Philippines, in 2000. The Manila office now has more than 600 staff supporting the firm's 76 offices in 47 countries.

'Nearshoring' legal support work has become something of a trend for the bigger law firm players. Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith plumped for Belfast, while Ashurst chose Glasgow and Hogan Lovells, Birmingham.

The firm said it had examined other locations before choosing Belfast as the best option for a variety of social, economic and business reasons.

Eduardo Leite, chairman of Baker & McKenzie's executive committee, said: 'One of the compelling reasons for choosing Belfast was the availability of a high-quality, well-educated workforce, able to support not just EMEA but all of our other regions. We believe we can offer great opportunities to legal and other professionals in Northern Ireland wanting to work on cross-border matters for a truly global firm.'

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