The Yanks are coming

28 Nov 2018 / corporate law Print

The Yanks are coming

Go-getting US attorney Mathew B Tully is determined to swoop in and take advantage of what he considers to be rampant age-discrimination at play in Dublin law firms.

With enforced retirement of senior and managing partners, Tully sees a golden opportunity to scoop up highly-experienced practitioners with heavy business books and no desire to get out of the game at 62.

In America, it’s unheard of to have a retirement age, he points out.

Old-fashioned

He believes it is ridiculously old-fashioned to force somebody out at 55.

“As long as someone is willing to be in the game, keep ‘em in the game,” he declares.

Mathew Tully sees great prospects for his Dublin branch of mid-sized US firm Tully Rinckey by combining younger associates with good technical skills with experienced old-hands who have great business relationships.

He currently has five partners in the Dublin office with two more starting in January and plans to rise to fourteen by the firm’s first-year anniversary next Fourth of July.

'Big three' partner

In March, a Dublin ‘big three’ partner will join the firm at the age of 55, because he doesn’t want to turn over his book of business and be put out to pasture.

"We're not a typical US law firm coming in with big money. We're a mid-sized US firm so we're applying American business practices.

"We're not going to hire somebody just for a name. They have to be able to provide something. If they're not providing the technical skills to work a file, they have to provide the rain-making skills.

"We're able to hire 30-year-olds that have excellent technical skills but have no book. And we can hire the 55-plus lawyers who have the book but don't have the technical skills.

"It's a match made in heaven, everybody wins.

"I think it's so old-fashioned in Ireland to have ageism in the partnership agreements," he declares.

"I understand the logic that you want young people to move up, but forcing somebody out at 55 is just ridiculous."

“Once word got out on the street in Dublin that we don’t have a retirement age, we have had numerous people come to us that are not happy that they have had to give up their book of business at their current firms and retire,” he says.

Some attorneys work into their 80s in the US, he says, and Tully Rinkey has just acquired a firm where the partners were 76, 75 and 74 – but crucially those lawyers have maintained 40-year relationships with chief executives.

On 1 February, Tully Rinckey will unveil its dedicated 3,000 sq foot office space in Dublin 2, when the firm moves from its temporary location in Fitzwilliam Square.

Hub

Dublin 2 was chosen because it’s where a lot of Tully Rinckey clients have already set up shop, as well as being a hub for many Irish law firms.

The main focus is on bringing Irish and European businesses to the US and steering them towards tax, banking, employment and regulatory compliance.

The number two focus is on helping American businesses enter the EU market, with reverse taxation laws and GDPR compliance.

The firm is actively searching for an IP lawyer in Dublin.

“Five years ago, we had grown across the United States, and we were doing very well and we wanted to challenge ourselves, so we came up with a five-year plan to grow internationally,” he explains.

“Our original plan was to open up our first office in Bangkok, and we spent about a year researching that and figuring out whether we would be successful in that market. After a year, we figured it would not be a smart market for us to move into.

“It would be better to get to a market that’s closer to our New York office, a six-hour plane ride, instead than a 16-hour one.

“I’m on the Solicitors’ Roll in England and Wales, and we spent about six months researching London, and the procedures for opening up an office.

“We started polling our clients to figure out what our American base primarily needed.

“There was a heavy reliance on EU litigation,” Mathew says.

Brexit hit

“Then, boom! Brexit hit!” he says, “which to us here in the States was a surprise.

"We knew it was going to be close, but we never thought they would actually do it.

“After a few months, it seemed pretty clear they were going to exit the EU, which kind of defeated the whole purpose of us having an office in the EU.”

Mathew was also on the Roll in Ireland, so his thoughts turned to examining this much smaller market that could potentially be a bridge to other business in Europe.

“We decided Dublin was the way to go because of the cheaper cost of entering the market.

“We would be able to test our policies and procedures in an international market."

Costs

The cheaper start-up costs in Dublin, in solicitor salaries, staff and rent, allowed Tully Rinckey a greater willingness to take risks, compared with trying things out in London or Hong Kong, Tully believes.

He says that from the perspective of running offices in Washington DC, New York and San Diego in California, the cost of living in Dublin is still cheaper.

During Tully Rinckey’s initial scoping exercise the euro and the dollar were at parity. Even now, with a 15% variation, it’s still cheaper than the US, he maintains.

Scoping exercise

During the scoping exercise, Tully was surprised to find that when renting office space in Ireland, fit-out costs for floor space are 100% on the tenant.

“In the American office renting market, the landlord builds the space to spec, so the capital construction costs are on the landlord. That was a major difference for us – that the build-out was an additional cost.”

And there is a knock-on cost that office space, on departure, must be returned in its original condition.

But even with these start-up and fit-out costs, Dublin is still cheaper, Tully maintains.

Tully Rinckey also has a fresh approach to staff-travel costs.

The firm maintains a serviced one-bedroom, 700-sq-foot corporate apartment in downtown Manhattan, with the same situation replicated in Washington DC and San Diego.

“I’m paying $3,600 per month, and that’s on the lower end of the New York-city apartment scale.” A Dublin, one-bed in Dublin 2 is still half the price of Manhattan, Tully says, and he plans to maintain an office-flat here too.

Huge saving

There’s a huge saving in travel costs and time, with no carry-on luggage for internal US flights.

“It’s not only cheaper, but we also find it more convenient. We’re going to do the same thing in Dublin.

“With American airline rules, it’s a pain in the neck to travel with razors and toiletries. Checking in luggage can turn an hour-long trip into a three-hour journey,” he explains, saying he can fly from his home in Albany, in upstate New York to Washington DC in one hour and 45 minutes, without luggage.

The Manhattan apartment is used, on a rostered spreadsheet basis, an average of 26 days each month, with the DC apartment used 21 days per month.

But mostly it’s about having the senior firm leadership on hand more often at the revenue-generating offices in the big cities.

Shipping hub

Tully strongly advises his US clients seeking to manufacture or set up a shipping hub in Ireland to consider Limerick or Shannon.

“Even if you’re doing it for intellectual property, and you’re only going to have four or five people, why put them in Dublin?” he asks.

Limerick has the best of all worlds, he believes. Shannon has regular flights to the US, and the cost of living is a fraction of that in the capital.

“You can get better space, better people, better manufacturing facilities – all in the Limerick/Shannon area,” he says. “I explain that to all the CEOs.”

True future of Ireland

“In my opinion, the true future of Ireland, if it’s marketed right, is the Limerick/Shannon area,” he says, urging the IDA to push the region, post-Brexit.

The technology people in the US are hot on Galway, because it has an eccentric San Francisco feel, he concluded.

Tully Rinckey will also differentiate itself by not being afraid to court publicity.

Mathew reveals that he has been told that seeking publicity in Dublin is strongly discouraged as 'pompous grandstanding' and will cause his firm to be shunned in the legal community.

"If it is, oh well," he grins.

"I'm not coming into Ireland to be best friends with the Irish attorneys.

"I'm coming into Ireland to be best friends with my clients."

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