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October 18, 2011 6:51 PM

Pillsbury to Move Back-Office Workers to Nashville

Posted by Sara Randazzo

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is headed to Music City. But its new operation in Nashville won't house corner offices for new partner recruits.

The firm plans to send back-office functions including information technology, finance, new client intake, and word processing to the country music capital by next year.

The move, announced Tuesday, puts Pillsbury on a path blazed by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, which has housed administrative staff and low-cost lawyers in Wheeling, West Virginia, for almost a decade, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, which has been sending nonlegal work and document review to an office in Dayton since last year.

"It's a competitive marketplace," says Pillsbury chair Jim Rishwain. "Law firms need to find better ways to add value to clients in a very difficult economy."

The firm's Nashville office will ultimately employ 150 people, Rishwain says. Pillsbury chief financial officer Sean Whelan and chief information officer Martin Metz will be relocating to Nashville to run the center. The firm plans to offer current employees an opportunity to move to Nashville, will begin recruiting locally in March to fill any remaining positions, and expects to have the new office up and running by fall 2012, Whelan says. 

"The model other firms have taken is to leave their C-level individuals behind in practice offices," says Whelan, who currently splits his time between San Francisco and Tysons Corner, Virginia. "Frankly, Marty and I both started looking and said, 'This is actually a great place to be . . . and we would love to be with our team.'"

Whelan says the firm settled on Nashville after a nationwide search. Though the city wasn't the cheapest option, he says that its mix of cultural attractions, educational institutions, affordable housing, and solid infrastructure made it the best choice to draw potential new talent.

For current employees affected by the move, Pillsbury plans to conduct tours of the city to show off its assets. For those who choose not to make the move, Pillsbury is offering an enhanced severance package and job search assistance, Rishwain says.

Also this week, O'Melveny & Myers confirmed the news (broken by sibling publication The Recorder) that it will eliminate about 75 staff positions nationwide [subscription required]. The work will now be handled by Williams Lea, an outsourcing company O'Melveny has used for 12 years, the firm said.

"We continue to evaluate and restructure our staff functions to reflect technology-driven efficiencies and practice model changes," said George Demos, the firm's chief operating officer, in a statement.

Earlier this year, Paul Hastings confirmed to Above the Law that it would eliminate 45 positions in its word processing department and outsource the work to RR Donnelley.

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