Northern Ireland is a leading global location for professional and legal services investment.
The professional services cluster in Northern Ireland includes companies that have reached significant scale, having developed large multi-disciplinary teams.
The “Big 4” accountancy houses have all located their UK delivery centres in Belfast, providing client-facing services. Both Deloitte and PwC’s Belfast centres are their largest centres in the UK outside of London.
The Northern Ireland cluster also includes global companies such as BDO, Grant Thornton and PA Consulting.
Northern Ireland’s legal sector is vibrant, internationally focused and has grown significantly over the last ten years.
Within the last decade, we’ve welcomed globally recognised law firms including Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, Herbert Smith Freehills and Factor.
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
Area of sector expertise
- Trade legal services
- Commercial dispute resolution
- Funds law
- Specialist consultancy and outsourcing
- Regulatory and compliance services
- Legal technology solutions
- Our legal talent pool includes an annual surplus of some 600 law graduates as well as an experienced cadre of professionals, many of whom are register to practice law in other jurisdictions including England & Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
- Northern Ireland boasts almost 450 local law firms, 3,000 solicitors and 600 barristers and KCs.
- Undergraduate law degrees at Queen's and Ulster universities have both been ranked in the top 20 in the UK by prestigious university guides.
- Teams in Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, Factor and Herbert Smith Freehills offer highly structured and innovative solutions to managing document-intensive and volume tasks.
- Large GB firms including Eversheds Sutherland, Fieldfisher, Gateley, Pinsent Masons, Shoosmiths and TLT have all expanded into Northern Ireland.
- BT and Citi have built and expanded their in-house legal capabilities in Northern Ireland.
- FinTrU has recently launched a legal services Assured Skills Academy to expand its legal offering to Tier 1 investment banks.
Area of sector expertise
- Forensic services
- Fund accounting
- Audit and reporting
- Over 2,600 graduates per year across accounting and finance.
- Over 7,000 accountants and trainee accountants are members of professional accountancy bodies.
- Queen's University Belfast's undergraduate degree in finance and accounting is ranked 7th in the UK by the Sunday Times.
- Big 4 accounting firms all have a substantial presence in Northern Ireland employing over 4,000 people with EY, KPMG, and PwC announcing plans to create a further 1700 jobs in NI in the next five years.
- The Higher Level Apprenticeship in Accountancy is offered by all Further Education Institutions in Northern Ireland in partnership with Accounting Technicians Ireland.
Area of sector expertise
- Strategy development & implementation
- Business improvement & operational excellence
- Change management
- Talent acquisition
- Digital transformation
- Strong availability of management consultant professionals.
- Over 12,000 members of professional bodies including Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, Accountancy bodies and the Chartered Institute of Public relations.
- Over 2,300 students and 900 graduates in management studies in the academic year 2020/21.
Tech for professional services
Area of sector expertise
- Data analytics
- Robotics and automation
- Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC have established tech and innovation hubs in Belfast.
- Home to operation centres for legal tech leaders including iManage, Factor, Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills.
- Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University offer postgraduate degrees in law and technology.
- Home to the UK’s first Legal Innovation Centre - a legal tech research and education collaboration between the School of Law and the School of Computing at Ulster University.
- A strong cluster of companies developing and delivering governance, risk and compliance (GRC) technology solutions in areas including GDPR, environmental and employment law.
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. To find out more visit our Invest in Northern Ireland section.
Global leaders successfully operating in the region include:
Allen & Overy
Allen & Overy Belfast opened in 2011. It is the second largest office in the A&O network, employing approximately 600 people. It includes a Support Service Centre which delivers business services – Document & Design, Finance, Human Resources, IT, Library & Information and Marketing & Business Development - to the firm’s global network. The global hub for IT support is based in Belfast, operating a 24/7 service model. A&O Belfast is also at the forefront of delivering legal services to clients in new and flexible ways, with proportionate lower-cost, tech enabled resourcing and end-to-end managed legal services. It forms part of Advanced Delivery & Solutions, which also sees specialist consultancy and strategic advisory services offered from Belfast.
Established in October 2014 and now employing 400 people, Baker McKenzie's Global Service Centre in Belfast works with centres in Manila, Tampa and Buenos Aires to provide a range of business and legal services in support of colleagues and clients around the World. The Belfast centre is home to a range of high performing teams, delivering the highest quality of services using best in class technology.
Deloitte Belfast is one of Deloitte’s largest UK offices outside London. They currently employ over 1,000 staff across a range of disciplines in tax, audit and consulting. In 2011 the company made a significant investment by establishing their Belfast Delivery Centre to deliver specialist digital services. The centre now employs over 800 people and is a leading R&D centre for data analytics, cloud services, robotics and cyber security. To ensure a long-term, sustainable pipeline of talent, the company uses highly innovative approaches to talent development including Higher Level Apprenticeships and DfE funded Assured Skills Academies.
Factor is the leader in next-generation solutions for complex legal work at scale. Factor combines the expert lawyers, market know-how and experience of traditional law with the process efficiency, smart legal technology and data-driven project management of New Law to bridge a huge gap in the market. Belfast is a Factor Centre of Excellence, employing a team of c200 lawyers, legal specialists, technologists, and process consultants, servicing a range of global clients including the world’s leading banks and Fortune/FTSE 100 companies. The Belfast centre has become a hub for regulatory response and compliance engagements, as well as in commercial contracting engagements across the life sciences sector, derivative documentation in the banking sector and due diligence in M&A.
Herbert Smith Freehills
Herbert Smith Freehills opened its Belfast office in 2011 – the first UK-based, near-shore operation to be launched by an international law firm. The office now employs over 200 legal analysts, lawyers and technologists, and operates as part of the firm’s global Alternative Legal Services (ALT) business. In collaboration with colleagues across ALT’s global network, the multi-disciplinary team in Belfast offers a range of legal and technology solutions for data-intensive, defined-process work across a number of practice areas – including Disputes, Corporate, Employment, Finance and Real Estate. As a fully-integrated part of Herbert Smith Freehills, the Belfast team is able to deliver end-to-end and risk-wrapped services to clients across a variety of industry sectors. It has particular expertise and experience in the Banking and Financial Services, Energy, Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), Real Estate, Wealth & Asset Management and Consumer sectors.
PA Consulting (PA), the consultancy that’s bringing ingenuity to life, expanded into Northern Ireland in 2018. Combining world-class capabilities and deep sector expertise, PA works globally across the public and private sectors to spot new opportunities and take clients further, faster. PA’s Belfast team provides end-to-end digital expertise including digital strategy and design, DevOps, data analytics, security and automated intelligence to help clients adapt and transform in an era of disruptive change.
PwC in Northern Ireland is PwC UK’s fastest-growing UK region and its largest regional office outside London. This growth was accelerated by the success of the firm's innovative operational delivery division, Operate. PwC employs 2,300 people in NI and will be moving in the summer of 2021 into new headquarters in the heart of Belfast city centre, which will accommodate up to 3,000 people. The PwC office in Belfast is a global centre for technology and, with its new digital Frontier space opening in Merchant Square, it'll bring clients together with its experts to drive creativity and collaboration, solving problems and creating sustainable innovation.
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Financial servicesNorthern Ireland is a leading global location for financial services investment. The region is leading the way in providing a wide range of international financial services solutions.
Why Northern Ireland?Northern Ireland is home to more than 1,200 international companies and is an ideal location for business expansion. We also have experienced exporters whose globally recognised products and services can be found in over 100 countries.
TechnologyNorthern Ireland has proven technology experience, capacity and capability. The region enjoys an international reputation as a region of expertise and knowledge in tech development and has one of the fastest growing tech sectors in the UK.