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Irish ambitions: Pinsents eyes Dublin base as UK firms look to capitalise on post-Brexit market

Pinsent Masons is eyeing up a Dublin base, to complement its existing offering in Belfast and provide a full UK and Ireland presence for the firm.

Since the firm’s merger with McGrigors in 2012, Pinsents’ international strategy has largely revolved around launching sector-focused greenfield sites, with partners from local firms.

However it is not clear whether Pinsents’ preference is a merger or a greenfield site in the Irish capital.

Pinsents currently has referral relationships with four or five firms in Dublin, one of which is Beauchamps Solicitors, one of Ireland’s top ten by size. It is understood that Pinsents has also been approached by several Irish firms with a view to doing a tie-up in the city.

A spokesperson for Pinsents said: ‘We have a market-leading Northern Ireland practice which naturally lends itself to elements of cross-border work, in turn giving rise to a number of significant client and referral relationships into the Republic of Ireland.

‘Dublin is an important legal market and will continue to be so. As you would expect we periodically review with our referral partners how best we can service client demand, however it would be inaccurate to characterise any of those discussions as merger talks. Of course we won’t rule out anything that enhances our ability to service the global sectors in which we operate however at this stage we’re very comfortable with our existing and highly successful platform.’

In March last year the firm launched in Australia with infrastructure sector-focused practices in Melbourne and Sydney headed up by David Rennick, previously chief executive of Australian law firm Maddocks and just last week the firm launched another infrastructure-focused practice in Johannesburg, with two partners from local firm Bowman Gilfillan.

Similarly it is understood that a number of UK firms are considering a Dublin base following Britain’s decision to leave the EU, with financial services and funds being two areas becoming especially lucrative following the Brexit vote.

While a full merger with an Irish firm is likely to be the preferable option for UK firms, Irish firms are unlikely to want to cut off profitable referral relationships with other UK firms.

One Irish law firm leader said: ‘Targeted greenfield sites is exactly the kind of thing that I think will happen. I would be amazed if that kind of thing doesn’t happen. At the moment for Irish firms you would see that there would be more benefit in having very close relationships with several firms rather than nailing your colours to the mast with one firm.’

Another added: ‘We aim to be best friends with all the top London and New York firms and many other firms around the world – if we were to tie up with a Linklaters or Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer we would be getting more instructions from them but ruling out an enormous amount of instructions from other firms. I can’t see a leading Dublin firm be willing to tie itself to a strategic alliance.’

In June, new figures from the Law Society of Ireland revealed that in the first six months of 2016, a record-breaking 186 solicitors from the UK have been admitted to practice in Ireland. The figure of 186 is more than three times the total admitted at this stage last year, when the number was less than 50. In 2015 the total number of UK solicitors that transferred to Ireland was 101. In 2014, that number was 51. According to the Law Society there were 15,196 solicitors on the roll in Ireland at the end of 2015.

Many of the solicitors specialise in EU and competition law, with the right to argue before EU tribunals such as the Court of Justice of the European Union only afforded to lawyers qualified in an EU state.