Professional and legal services
Northern Ireland has become a leading global location for professional and legal services investment.
There are over 16,000 people employed in Professional and Legal services in Northern Ireland, and the region offers a ready pool of culturally-compatible, highly educated talent.
The professional services cluster in Northern Ireland includes companies that have reached significant scale, having developed large multi-disciplinary teams.
Three of the “Big 4” accountancy houses have located their UK Delivery centres, providing client-facing services, in Belfast and both Deloitte and PwC’s Belfast centres are their largest centres in the UK outside of London.
The NI cluster also includes global companies such as BDO, Grant Thornton and PA Consulting. In addition, many of the global investors to Northern Ireland have chosen to locate their finance functions in NI including Allen & Overy and Baker McKenzie.
Legal services are one of the fastest-growing sectors in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland boasts over 500 local law firms, 2300 solicitors and 600 barristers and QCs. Our legal talent pool includes an annual surplus of some 600 law graduates as well as an experienced cadre of professionals who are keen to return and re-locate to the region.
Sharing a regulatory framework and company law regime with England and Wales, Northern Ireland is a proven location of choice for international legal services.
Areas of expertise
Northern Ireland is leading the way, with expertise in:
- Legal Process Outsourcing
- Regulatory and compliance services
- Management consultancy
- Tax and audit
- Forensic services
- Enabling tech for professional services
- Analytics and cybersecurity
- Blockchain and AI
- Trade legal services
- Commercial dispute resolution
- Funds law
- Specialist consultancy and outsourcing
- Legal tech
Access to world-class talent
Northern Ireland’s two prestigious universities, Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University are producing highly skilled graduates with a depth of skills. Both Universities work closely with industry to develop skills and capabilities at many levels including Higher Level Apprenticeships, undergraduate and postgraduate level.
Ulster University has partnered with leading law firms Baker McKenzie and Allen & Overy to establish the Legal Innovation Centre at UU. The Legal Innovation Centre is at the forefront of understanding and facilitating the innovation of legal services and legal technology.
Northern Ireland for foreign direct investment
Northern Ireland is an attractive place for investment in the professional and legal services sector thanks to a combination of factors including skills availability, excellent infrastructure, cost-effectiveness and a supportive business environment.
Global leaders successfully operating in the region include:
Allen & Overy
Established in 2011, Allen & Overy’s (A&O) Northern Ireland office currently employs over 475, making it the firm’s biggest office after London. The Belfast operation includes the Legal Services Centre as well as the A&O Belfast Support Services Centre which delivers a range of business support services to the firm’s global network.
Established in October 2014 and now employing 300 people, the Baker McKenzie Belfast Global Service Centre provides high quality legal services including large-scale document review and M&A due diligence to the firm’s clients around the world. Business services functions delivered from Belfast include finance, communications, talent management and IT.
Deloitte Belfast is one of Deloitte UK’s largest offices outside London, employing over 800 staff across a range of disciplines and is a leading centre for R&D in data analytics, blockchain and cybersecurity. The company is also innovating new approaches to talent development to ensure the long term sustainability of tech skills.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Established in April 2011, Herbert Smith Freehills(HSF) Belfast now employs over 200 qualified lawyers, legal analysts and technologists. Belfast is the hub of the firm’s innovative Alternative Legal Services solution set delivering a wide range of products and services to provide a seamless round-the-clock service to clients.
PwC Northern Ireland is PwC UK’s fastest-growing region and its largest regional office outside London, employing 2000 people. Belfast is PwC recognised global centre for technology, digital advisory services and research, including PwC global hub for blockchain as well as specialists for PwC Research and the Google Innovation Lab.
- 16,000 people employed in the Professional and Legal services sector in NI
- 4,200 graduate in professional and legal each year
- The region offers a 44% reduction in typical salary costs compared to London and Dublin
- PwC and Google’s first European Innovation lab was established in Belfast
- Northern Ireland is home to PwC's fastest-growing division in the UK and its largest office outside London with 2000 people