15 June 2023

Ireland’s Big Six: ‘There will be winners, there will be losers’

Despite pressure from international law firms, the strongest competition for Ireland’s Big Six comes from within their own ranks

A&L Goodbody. Arthur Cox. Mason Hayes & Curran (MHC). Matheson. McCann FitzGerald. William Fry. The Big Six Irish law firms symbolize excellence across the full spectrum of commercial practice areas. Referencing the language of Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, where they continue to dominate Band 1 rankings, their collective pre-eminence is underscored by phrases such as “stellar practice”, “formidable reputation” and “outstanding expertise”. There is a commonly-held view in Dublin and beyond that things have always been that way – and for some, a hope that they always will be.

Stephen Holst, managing partner at McCann FitzGerald, says: “This firm has been around in its current form over 50 years, with a history going back 200 years. That’s been built on having the best clients, looking after those clients, and doing the best work for them.” Will Carmody, MHC’s managing partner, echoes the point. “This firm has been in the Irish market for 50 years and we’ll be here for another 50 years,” he says. “There’s an attraction in stability.” But in the language of investment management, past performance is no guarantee of future results. In some other European legal markets, when big international law firms entered with clear ambitions to compete with the local independents, stability eventually gave way to change. Paris and Frankfurt show how dramatic that change can be.


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