Legal Business

Reality bites as Mason Hayes posts 6% revenue drop in bellwether  for Irish  firms

Reality bites as Mason Hayes posts 6% revenue drop in bellwether  for Irish  firms

Legal Business’ recent analysis of Ireland’s legal market warned against underestimating the resilience of the Irish, so Mason Hayes & Curran’s less-than-catastrophic 6% dip in turnover for a financial year defined by Covid-19 should come as little surprise.

Revenues at the full-service Irish firm fell to €80m as it acknowledged a substantial hit to both transactional and contentious workflows. In a statement, managing partner Declan Black (pictured) chalked up the fall in disputes work to ‘significantly reduced court hearings’. Overall however, he was ‘satisfied’ with the results and noted ‘professional services were comparatively insulated from the worst effects of the pandemic.’  

Historically the only major independent Irish firm to publicise its financial results, Mason Hayes’ announcement acts as an important barometer for the overall financial resilience of the country’s legal market.

Asked for his assessment of how Covid-19 had impacted the market, Black told Legal Business: ‘My instinct is that everybody will have done better than they thought they would back in April to June last year. For most people, it would have been the second quarter which was the worst, but it depends on the practice profile of the firm.’

City litigators have been praising the English courts’ ability to persevere throughout the crisis and have noted the lack of a case backlog, but Black painted a different picture of the Irish system: ‘We have a large contentious practice. You need court dates to drive activity. When you don’t have the discipline of regular court hearings, cases slow down.’

However, despite an understandable drop-off in transactional work in the second quarter of 2020, Black reported a substantial uptick in Q4 which should carry over into 2021: ‘There’s lots of money washing around, looking for something to do. There will be a lot of transactional activity in 2021.’

Despite the revenue downturn, Mason Hayes was able to recruit six partners throughout the financial year, bringing the firm’s total partner headcount to 95.

And there was significant demand for the firm’s technology, life sciences and energy teams. Among a number of high-profile mandates, last year, the technology team acted for Facebook in the landmark Schrems II case regarding the transfer of personal data from Europe to the US.

The energy team advised Norwegian state utility company Statkraft on the €123m sale of two wind farms and the life sciences team defended Quest Diagnostics from clinical negligence claims, among other notable matters.

Black concludes: ‘My overwhelming sentiment is that of gratitude towards our staff, who handled the transition to remote working remarkably well. At the end of the day, clients want high-quality legal advice, they don’t care if you have a nice office!’

Tom.baker@legalbusiness.co.uk

Legal Business

Ireland’s lucky number seven: Irish Treasury appoints septuplet of firms to its legal panel

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Thanks to the economic turbulence that has plagued the Irish nation since 2008, Dublin’s largest firms continue to collect hefty recession related work post financial crisis, including most recently an appointment to advise the government’s asset and liabilities manager, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA).

The NTMA, which is responsible for borrowing on behalf of the Irish government and managing the national debt, has appointed Dublin-based Big Five firms A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, William Fry, McCann FitzGerald and Matheson to its general legal services panel alongside Mason Hayes & Curran and offshore funds giant Maples and Calder.

In recent years advising on Ireland’s debt has been particularly lucrative. Traditionally, Arthur Cox has been recognised as the state’s go-to firm, having led on many of Ireland’s headline bank restructuring deals, including the NTMA’s transfer of €15.8bn of deposits and assets from Irish Nationwide Building Society to Irish Life & Permanent, and from the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank to Allied Irish Banks (€12.2bn).

However, this latest panel announcement comes as the government is under serious public scrutiny over legal fees, particularly in relation to its controversial bank guarantee scheme, which has landed the Irish tax-payer with over €64bn of debt.

Following a parliamentary question published in mid-July, finance minister Michael Noonan revealed that since 2011 the government has paid Arthur Cox around €5m for advice on the scheme including fees this year so far of €981,012.

Noonan also revealed that the state has paid out more than €960,000 to Matheson since last year – a sum it says was for ‘advice on transactions undertaken by the Minister in relation to Irish Life.’

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

See the September issue of Legal Business for an extensive insight into Ireland’s legal market