Solving the Irish Puzzle
A flood of international firms in Dublin has put pressure on the local legal recruitment market. Dominic Carman asks whether more competition might force leading Irish firms to consider an alliance or a merger
One measure of status for any legal market is the number of foreign law firms which advise international clients on local law. That certainly applies in Frankfurt or Paris, for example. In the world’s two biggest legal markets, the 100 or so US law firms in London compete much more effectively than the 20+ UK law firms operating in New York. Carving out a significant share of top end work, the leading trio of Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and White & Case bill nearly $1.5bn between them in London, whereas Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters collectively bill only a small fraction of that figure in New York.
Until recently, international competition in Ireland was limited to a small handful of firms. But, in recent years, more international players have decided to plant an Irish flag: the Brexit vote was a key catalyst. Between 2016 and 2020, nine of them opened a Dublin office; since last September, a further seven firms – including Linklaters and Hogan Lovells – have announced their arrival. As the trickle becomes a flood, what does this mean for Dublin’s elite?