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Irish legal market is ripe for disruption

17 Jan 2019 / corporate law Print

Irish legal market is ripe for disruption – global colossus

Global behemoth DLA Piper wants to be an agent for change in the Dublin legal market, its principals have told the Law Society Gazette.

“There’s been quite a long period of the Irish law business looking very similar,” says Ireland managing partner David Carthy.

The firm made the decision to open a Dublin office five years ago, long before Brexit.

“People assume it was a direct result of Brexit, but it really isn’t,” global co-CEO Simon Levine (pictured above) explains.

“We are here to do good things for our clients and for communities,” he says.

The Ireland launch was the result of an executive team strategy review that focused on how to follow clients’ businesses in tech, life sciences, financial services and media, all sectors which are well-established in Dublin.

“We thought there was a strategic need here. We worked with Irish (law) firms, which are high quality, but at the end of the day, a lot of DLA Piper business is built on being [involved in] over 100 global legal panels for multinationals around the world,” he said.

These multinationals wanted legal help in key jurisdictions, one of which was Dublin.

Consistency and quality

Simon Levine says that using an external law firm made it harder to give the consistency and the quality DLA Piper wanted to offer to clients.

“We started to look at Dublin and, in the middle of that, the Brexit referendum happened. From our point of view, having another common law, English-speaking jurisdiction was always going to be helpful anyway within Europe, so Brexit was an additional helpful factor, but it wasn’t the reason we chose to come here.”

Managing partner David Carthy elaborates that there is a significant number of legal and tax decision-makers here, with budgets that are global or EMEA in nature, and this dovetails with DLA Piper’s presence in 40 countries.

‘’We’ve already got a global platform, so it’s as much about helping Irish clients to grow internationally and to help them with their legal and tax problems, wherever they are globally, as it is doing the Irish work for our global clients."

Based just off St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, DLA Piper recently announced the arrival of four new partners.

Global benchmarking

The firm promises globally-integrated advice that is globally benchmarked. Carthy says the Irish legal market is ripe for disruption.

“We’ll be building out full teams around them and we will be hiring more,” David says.

He expects, with the right talent available, to reach 20 partners and 100 employees within three to four years.

He has been very pleased with the legal talent available for hire.

Right culture

“There are great Irish lawyers who work in Ireland, and great Irish lawyers who work all over the world. It’s about getting the right people with the right culture to approach us,” he says.

“To align with our values, you would need to have a global mindset, curiosity about other countries, and a knowledge of how to help people in other jurisdictions,” he explains.

He wants to enable globally-minded Irish legal talent to have an outlet in DLA Piper, in order to reach its full potential.

In hiring, David is looking for three things:

  • A global mindset,
  • Being a natural collaborator, and
  • Being a person who likes change and has entrepreneurial flair.

“We want to make sure the team we build will be consistent with the culture we have globally,” he explains. “It’s not about growing at speed; it’s about growing with the right culture."

Simon agrees. “The office here is going to look and feel exactly the same as our office in Luxembourg or Paris or New York.”

But while global in outlook, DLA Piper employees are also expected to be engaged with their local business communities.


DLA Piper sends over 100 junior associates abroad each year, on short- or long-term secondments of six months up to two years.

“We never force people to go abroad, but we offer the opportunity,” says Simon.

‘What is the point is being in a global law firm and never engaging with anywhere else in the world,” he asks, pointing out that this helps associates align with DLA Piper culture and values.

“If your cultures and values are wrong, the rest of it is meaningless, and it’s never going to be any good,” he says.

The firm’s values are to be collaborative, bold, exceptional and supportive, and everyone in the firm has buy-in from the chief executive to security men.

DLA Piper is moving towards operating as full-service business advisors for their clients. Carthy says it’s all about listening to the client and using flexible and agile working practices, rather than trying to sell a product.

He is insistent on diversity of thought from the Dublin firm, which will be embracing innovation.

On Brexit, Carthy says that anytime a client is in a difficult or unpredictable situation, they tend to work with advisors more.


“DLA Piper is a very globally-hedged organisation, operating in Britain and Ireland and 38 other jurisdictions,” he points out.

Simon Levine concludes that DLA Piper looks at Brexit from a global perspective.

“As a firm, Brexit doesn’t affect our structure or the advice we give to clients. We need healthy economies, and we need global trade to be facilitated. Our clients predominantly succeed when global trade is doing well, and we follow our clients.

“Uncertainty is always bad, but the truth is it’s a very mixed picture.

“Our clients run across a range of sectors, types of businesses and structures. Some of them see advantages to investing in the UK.”

Economic realities

Economic and political global realities, such as a US-China trade war, will have a greater effect on global law firms, he says.

Levine is himself a remain voter and is pro EU, having done a lot of IP work at the CJEU, which he personally enjoyed.

He praises the broader perspective that lawyers can get from listening to judges from different jurisdictions and different jurisprudence.


While respecting the democratic vote, he feels it’s a shame that Britain won’t play a role in the EU legal institutions any longer.

But ultimately, lawyers, systems and countries will adapt to prevailing realities, Levine concludes.

“The real shame is the uncertainty,” he says.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland