Pinsent Masons to launch in Dublin with trio of partner hires

Pinsent Masons is to launch an office in Dublin, making it the first international law firm to launch in the Irish capital since last year’s Brexit vote.

The firm has hired three partners to open the new base: investment funds partner Gayle Bowen, who joins from Walkers; Mathesons outsourcing partner Andreas Carney; and corporate partner Dennis Agnew, who joins from local firm Byrne Wallace.

The launch will make Pinsents one of a handful of firms with an all-Ireland presence, after its 2012 merger with McGrigors handed it a base in Belfast.

Pinsents has been looking at the Irish market for some time, appointing a property agent last year to scout out possible office locations and engaging recruiters to bring in lawyers for the new base.

Senior partner Richard Foley told Legal Week: “We took the strategic decision that we would explore whether we should have a presence in Ireland before 23 June last year. This wasn’t a Brexit decision for us, but after the referendum, that just reinforced that it was a good idea we should be looking at it.

“Dublin is a key global hub for financial services and technology, and the clients in those spaces are strategically critical to us. When Brexit happened, it made us think that was the right call.

“We are still in the dark as to the impact Brexit will have. I don’t think I would say that Brexit changed the game, but it gave us the confidence that the decision we made for other reasons was a good one.”

Multiple sources told Legal Week that the firm had engaged in merger talks with Irish firm Beauchamps last year. However, Foley said“We have worked with a number of Irish law firms for a number of years we have a good friends over there and we will continue to work with them. We didn’t have any discussions that anyone could properly characterise as merger discussions.”

He added: “We will look to expand pretty fast – we certainly won’t be opening and standing still.”

There has been a great deal of speculation around the possibility of international firms entering the Dublin market since the UK voted to leave the European Union last summer. Other firms linked to a launch in Dublin include global giant DLA Piper. Earlier this year, senior partner Juan Picon told Legal Week: “Post-Brexit, there will be more institutions looking to have a presence in Ireland, so opening there would be consistent with our strategy.”

While the market is traditionally dominated by the ‘big five’ firms – A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, Mathesons, William Fry and McCann Fitzgerald – international firms to have entered the Irish market during the past decade include Eversheds Sutherland, Dechert, offshore firms Walkers and Maples and Calder, and insurance-focused UK firms DAC Beachcroft, Kennedys, BLM and DWF.

In addition, a rash of UK firms have moved to register lawyers on the Irish roll of solicitors as an insurance policy against Brexit. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has the 11th most solicitors registered on the roll in Ireland, despite not having an office in the country.

Pinsents has been steadily expanding in the past 18 months, opening an office in Madrid last month, its first Africa office in Johannesburg in January, and launching in Duesseldorf early last year.