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Irish lawyers and law firms feature in FT excellence rankings

13 Sep 2019 / business Print

Irish lawyers and law firms  in FT excellence rankings

Three Irish law firms and several Irish lawyers are among those featured in this year’s Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Report 2019. The Central Bank of Ireland also received a commendation.

The list is compiled by the FT, together with its research partner RSG Consulting, and is in its 14th year of publication.

Entries are benchmarked and lawyers are ranked for delivering exceptional value to their businesses.

Law firms, in-house legal teams and other legal service providers were all invited to make submissions to the compilers.

A total of 750 submissions were made from 163 law firms and legal service providers, as well as 47 in-house legal teams.


Interviews were conducted with more than 800 clients, senior lawyers, executives and experts before the rankings were completed.

Three Irish law firms featured in the top 50, including Matheson (ranked 25), Arthur Cox (31) and William Fry (36).

Matheson’s London office partner and disputes lawyer Sharon Daly is listed by the FT as one of ten innovative individuals “showing vision in a world of flux”.

Daly has led several strategic initiatives at the firm over the past 25 years, including in digital transformation, e-discovery and spearheading a paperless office.

Matheson itself is rated under the ‘managing complexity and scale’ heading for helping ratings agency S&P Global move its EMEA HQ out of Europe in anticipation of Brexit-related economic restrictions.

Ratings agency regulations are strict and little precedent existed for the move. Matheson conducted a cross-border merger of three different EMEA agencies, previously based in the UK, France and Italy, and moved them to Ireland.

Liquidity strategy

Arthur Cox scored highest among the three Irish law firms in this category. It was highly commended for developing a liquidity strategy to enable Donegal Investments Group, which was dealing with surplus capital, to return €45 million in capital to its shareholders.

This approach maximised the capita return to shareholders, many of whom lived in rural areas and eliminated the risk of them missing out on the return of capital or notification requirements. The late Paul Robinson was commended for this work.

In addition, the Central Bank of Ireland’s regulatory decisions unit, together with Arthur Cox, is listed in the ‘creating a new standard’ rankings for conducting the first fully paperless court proceedings.

‘Landmark scheme’

William Fry was also recognised for its innovation in managing complexity and scale when advising Ballantyne Re plc on its landmark scheme of arrangement to restructure US$1.65 billion of debt thereby releasing assets to the senior debt holders and facilitating the solvent liquidation of the company. 

The firm was highly commended, also, for demonstrating innovation in accessing new markets and capital when it advised on the establishment of a new Irish fund investing in leading Asian companies that actively tackle pollution and climate change. 

The fund is structured such that some of the normal investment fees typically lost in most funding structures are funnelled to a party that will use them in environmental projects. 

Legal innovators 

Barrister Maeve O’Rourke, who has a Masters’ degree from Harvard, has been commended for her work on the Clann project, which obtained witness statements for the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

Aine Lyons was the winner in the ‘legal intrapreneurs’ legal services category and lauded as a lawyer who has brought about 'significant change in culture and operations'.

As legal counsel at global software company VMware, Lyons built a legal outsourcing team that saved the firm an estimated $4.8 million.

She is now vice-president and deputy general counsel at the business.

Two Irish women lawyers feature in the 'top ten legal innovators' list – Sharon Daly and Maeve O'Rourke – a remarkable achievement for the Irish legal profession.

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