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Brexit boost continues for Dublin as Covington launches life sciences team in Ireland

A Brexit-driven boost to Dublin as a professional services hub has been much discussed and now appears to be materialising as Covington & Burling has confirmed that it is the second international law firm to launch locally following last year’s referendum vote.

The Dublin launch, which is still subject to regulatory approval, will focus on regulation, pharma and life sciences and be overseen by London-based EU life sciences partner Grant Castle and technology partner Daniel Cooper.

Maree Gallagher, who is currently of counsel at Irish practice Beauchamps, will also join Covington locally. Gallagher, who has over 20 years’ experience in regulatory work in the pharma and life sciences sectors, also founded the boutique Maree Gallagher Associates in 2004. The 840-lawyer Covington has substantial resources to back its expansion, with the Washington DC-bred firm generating revenues of $838.5m in the 2016 financial year.

The Dublin market is still awash with rumours about which foreign law firms may launch in the Irish capital following the Brexit vote last June. Pinsent Masons became the first foreign law firm to make a concrete commitment earlier this year when it confirmed that it would launch a greenfield site with three partners, each from different firms, focusing on financial services and technology.

Pinsents’ team includes outsourcing partner Andreas Carney from Matheson, corporate partner Dennis Agnew from ByrneWallace and funds partner Gayle Bowen from Walkers.

At the time, Pinsents’ senior partner Richard Foley told Legal Business that the move was primarily due to the development of Dublin as a major international hub, commenting: ‘It wasn’t a Brexit thing. We felt that, given Dublin’s reputation as a key global hub in financial services, technology and pharmaceuticals, it was an obvious place for us to look in.’

It is believed that a number of other foreign law firms, including DLA Piper, have sized up a Dublin move amid expectations that a local branch will help ease access to the EU after Britain leaves the grouping. The number of foreign solicitors registering to practise in Ireland has already surged since the 2016 vote.

However, entering the local market will be complicated for foreign law firms by the relatively high profitability of top Dublin law firms and an unwillingness of veteran partners to move between peers.