Fieldfisher makes move into Belfast as firm also mulls Brexit-related Dublin launch


Fieldfisher is to open in Belfast after securing a tie-up with a local legal consultancy in the city, as the firm also mulls a Brexit-related launch in Dublin.

The firm has partnered with Donaldson Legal Consulting for its initial launch in Belfast, with the deal giving Fieldfisher immediate access to 25 consultants focused on financial trading documentation for financial institutions, corporations and asset managers.

Donaldson Legal Consulting will continue to operate as an independent business, but it will also become part of Fieldfisher’s recently launched alternative legal services venture Condor, and the City firm has ambitious plans to grow further in Northern Ireland.

It is already looking for new premises that could house up to 75 people, and plans to employ both support staff and lawyers in Belfast in the longer term. The move comes as the firm has also been ramping up in Manchester, in a bid to offer clients better value legal services.

Guy Usher, the head of Fieldfisher’s derivatives group and a co-founder of Condor, said: “We intend to open in Belfast. We ultimately want to have lawyers based there supporting the rest of the network. We are looking for new, bigger premises.”

Other major UK firms with low cost legal hubs in Belfast include Herbert Smith Freehills and Allen & Overy, which both launched there in 2011.

Condor, which currently supports Fieldfisher’s banking and finance practice, is headed by former Ashurst securities and derivatives chief Christopher Georgiou, alongside derivatives partners Usher and Luke Whitmore. It combines document data management and technology solutions with low-cost legal expertise. Last month, it also gained a presence in South Africa through a partnership with Cognia Law.

In addition to the Belfast move, Fieldfisher is also seriously considering opening in Dublin. The firm’s interest in the market has been prompted in part by moves by several of its clients to the Irish capital, in response to last year’s Brexit vote.

Usher said: “We are actively looking at Dublin. A big piece of it for us will be to be close to clients, or bits of business that are based there that are important to us. It is partly Brexit-related; a lot of clients are increasingly locating back and middle offices there.”

Three other international players have recently made moves to open for business in Dublin, including Simmons & Simmons, which hired Mason Hayes & Curran investment funds and financial regulation head Fionan Breathnach to spearhead an office launch.

In September, Legal Week revealed that US firm Covington & Burling was waiting for regulatory clearance from the Irish Law Society to launch a life sciences and technology-focused base in the city, while earlier this year, Pinsent Masons became the first international firm to open in Ireland following the Brexit vote, with the hire of three partners from local practices.