Orrick Marks 10th Year in Wheeling

WHEELING – Whether they work in Los Angeles, Rome, New York City or Tokyo, nearly 1,200 lawyers working for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP depend on the firm’s Global Operations Center in Wheeling.

Celebrating the center’s 10-year anniversary Tuesday in the Main Street facility once home to Wheeling Stamping, Orrick Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ralph Baxter thanked local and state officials for helping the company expand its workforce from 70 employees in 2002 to 350 today.

“Wherever they are in the world, they depend on Wheeling,” he said regarding his employees, just prior to addressing them and local officials during a reception. “This is the only thing of its kind in the world.”

Although he declined to be more specific, Baxter added, “Orrick is going to continue to expand here in Wheeling.”

Also, Baxter said Orrick works closely with document processing company Williams Lea, based in the former Stone & Thomas building in the 1000 block of Main and Market streets in downtown Wheeling.

“They have about 150 employees,” he said. “When you add it all up, we account for about 500 direct jobs in this city.”

Orrick also maintains operations in 20 additional offices spanning the United States, Europe and Asia. Baxter said his company developed the idea to open such a center to consolidate its back-office operations in the late 1990s as a way to cut costs.

“If a function does not need to be done where we practice law, we move it here,” he said.

The Center Wheeling facility serves as home to Orrick’s network operations center, service desk, software applications support and web engineering. Finance functions located at the center include global taxation, general ledger, billing and collections, and payroll.

Baxter said he initially approached former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise about building such a center in the Mountain State when Wise served as a member of Congress in the late 1990s.

“He encouraged us to come here and did a lot for us,” said Baxter of Wise. “Prior to that, the only connection Orrick had to West Virginia is that we were both founded in 1863,” he added of the firm that began its work in San Francisco the same year the Mountain State gained statehood.

Baxter thanked the Wheeling-based Regional Economic Development Partnership, Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp., former Wheeling Mayor Nick Sparachane and current city leaders for their help in getting the center up and running. He noted several local churches also donated money to the building’s renovation.

“This was truly a community project,” he said, noting about 15 percent of the firm’s worldwide workforce lives in the Wheeling area. “We feel like we have made a contribution to this area.”

Baxter also cites the Wheeling center as an example of how American companies can grow their operations in the United States instead of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries.

“What has happened here is proof that we can compete with anybody in the world,” he said. “Any employer could do this.”

As local officials work to help Orrick expand and attract similar employers to the Friendly City, Wheeling Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey said the law firm has been a “great anchor for the redevelopment of Center Wheeling.”

“This is a great example of the possibilities we have for future growth here in Wheeling,” he said. “The officials with Orrick are always talking about what a great decision they made by coming here.”