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Simmons & Simmons becomes third international firm to launch in Ireland since Brexit vote with key local hire

While there hasn’t been the anticipated rush of City firms into alternative European financial centres since the UK voted for Brexit, Simmons & Simmons has become the third international firm to plan a launch in Dublin since last June as the referendum result continues to boost the Irish capital as a professional service hub.

Mason Hayes & Curran’s head of investment funds and financial regulation Fionán Breathnach will leave the Irish firm to lead the Simmons’ new office as it follows Covington & Burling and Pinsent Masons  to make moves to launch practices in Dublin.

The office will initially focus on a core practice area for Simmons, asset management, but the firm is also looking at opportunities in the wider financial institutions sector.

While the timing of the launch hasn’t been announced yet, managing partner Jeremy Hoyland told Legal Business the firm was looking to open ‘as soon as possible’ and it was in the process of establishing the initial team that will join Breathnach in the Irish capital.

He added the launch was not directly due to Brexit but rather to Ireland being one of the largest jurisdictions in the EU for fund formation, a priority sector for Simmons: ‘It is the natural location for us’.

However, he said that the case for Dublin had become more compelling following the referendum result in June last year, with Ireland poised to see an influx of talent in funds and financial institutions.

Breathnach joined Mason Hayes in 2003 and was previously legal counsel at HSBC. His clients include a number of fund managers such as Comeragh Capital, Heptagon Capital and Thornburg Investment Management.

Mason Hayes managing partner Declan Black said ‘Fionán has made a great contribution to MHC over the years’, while noting younger partners, like Rowena FitzGerald and Conor Durkin, as ‘a new generation for us and we look forward to their continuing to develop our funds and financial regulation practice’.

This will be the first office launch for Simmons since the Luxembourg opening in January 2015, the announcement comes after two years marked by closures for the firm. Its Abu Dhabi base shut in March 2016  and its Rome outpost in August 2015 .

The outcome of the EU referendum in June 2016 has pushed a presence in Dublin up the agenda for a number of international firms as they look at the Irish capital as a gateway to the bloc after Britain leaves in March 2019.

It is believed that a number of other international firms, including DLA Piper, are considering a launch in the city, while the number of foreign solicitors registering to practise in Ireland has surged since the 2016 vote.