Wednesday 8 January 2020 12:01 am

World’s largest law firm Dentons set to launch in Ireland

The world’s largest law firm Dentons is poised to open its first office in Ireland.

Dentons has hired banking partner Peter O’Brien from Irish firm Matheson to spearhead its expansion into the market.

Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, Ireland has been targeted by UK and international law firms looking to set up operations in an English speaking EU jurisdiction.

Firms to open in Dublin since 2016 include international giant DLA Piper; UK top 50 firms Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons and Fieldfisher; and US firms Covington & Burling and Tully Rinckey.

Read more: Fieldfisher merges with Irish firm McDowell Purcell in Brexit-related expansion

UK law firms are also registering large numbers of lawyers on the Irish roll of solicitors as a way of retaining rights of audience before EU courts after Brexit.

Last year a record 1,893 solicitors from England and Wales joined the Irish roll, according to data from the Law Society of Ireland.

Magic Circle firms Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer added 297, 259 and 162 solicitors respectively to the Irish roll last year, despite none of the three having offices in the country. 

The Irish legal market is dominated by a handful of domestic firms: A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, Mathesons, William Fry, McCann Fitzgerald and Mason Hayes & Curran.

Read more: US law firm launches in London and plans UK expansion ‘because of Brexit’

The leading Irish players have close referral relations with law firms in London, meaning they are resistant to merger approaches from UK and international firms as tying up with any one firm would cut off a lucrative flow of work from its rivals.

However, the wave of international firms setting up shop in the country threatens to dramatically shake-up the local market.

Last year, Fieldfisher secured a merger with smaller Irish firm McDowell Purcell and there have been constant whispers about other merger discussions over the last few years, suggesting more tie-ups could take place.

Expansive global firm Dentons has almost 10,000 lawyers, making it the largest law firm in the world by headcount. 

In its most recent fiscal year it had revenue of $2.4bn (£1.8bn) and profit per equity partner of $533,000.

A spokesperson for Matheson said: “We would like to thank Peter for his contribution to our business during his 15 years at Matheson and we wish him the very best in his future career.”

Dentons declined to comment.