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Big Law Mergers Can Mean More Work for Onshore Centers

The little town of Wheeling in West Virginia has already made its name in the legal world for housing the onshore operations centers for many large law firms. These include Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and Reed Smith LLP. With mergers going strong in 2013, and a number of large firms being spawned, onshoring activity is expected to increase all the more in future. Charleston and Huntington, San Antonio, Texas, and Nashville are recognized as other on shoring centers for law firms.

Orrick and Reed Smith's operation centers in Wheeling, manned by non-partner-track attorneys and associates, have already been acknowledged as assets for law firms. These centers handle much of the research work, paralegal, quasi-paralegal, and other kind of work that is traditionally handled by back-office. With the internet and intranets - organization of information, its transfer, and its access, is less challenging than before.

Last week, keeping in mind that Orrick is in merger talks with Pillsbury, Ralph Baxter, Chairman Emeritus of Orrick indicated that such a merger could increase activity in Wheeling. The former Chief Executive Officer of Orrick told the media, "If Orrick does a merger such as this, it would increase the activity at the global operations center." However, he did not give any indication that the merger with Pillsbury was final. He said, "The current firms are in exploratory talks. Time will tell how these talks go."

While some of the big firms like Reed Smith and Orrick have their own back-office centers in places like Wheeling, many of the law firms entering into mergers this year do not have such facilities that add to merger talks. For instance, the Wheeling Center of Orrick has 300-350 employees and serves as the home to the law firm's network operations center, service desk, software applications support and web engineering. The center also handles global taxation, general ledger, payroll, and billing and collections.

While on shoring operations like those in Wheeling may not be viable for smaller establishments, the larger entities formed by mergers will definitely find on shoring useful, and the mergers would lead to an increase in activity in centers like Wheeling.

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

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