Arthur Cox chair swap marks end of an era

Corporate partner Eugene McCague has been voted in as the new chair of Dublin giant Arthur Cox after current chair and head of corporate James O’Dwyer announced his intention to step down from both roles in April next year.

On the weekend of 3 December, days after O’Dwyer’s announcement, Arthur Cox held a selection process to find its new chair. It is understood that five candidates stood, with McCague emerging as the winner (as first revealed on www.the lawyer.com, 6 December).

Arthur Cox managing partner Pádraig Ó Ríordáin said the firm was able to hold the selection process so quickly after O’Dwyer’s announcement because the chair had made no secret of his intentions. “James has been a partner at Arthur Cox for 33 years and chair for 12 years,” he said. “I think he thought it was time for a change, but he’ll remain very actively involved.”

O’Dwyer is one of the highest-profile names in the Dublin legal market and has been chair of the Republic’s leading firm for 12 years. According to one well-placed Dublin partner, O’Dwyer is the “éminence grise” at Arthur Cox and the “consigliere” to some of Dublin’s most powerful corporates and financial institutions.

“The real question is, ‘will the new chair wield the same power as O’Dwyer?'” he added. “The answer is almost certainly not. You only have to look at the difference between the managing partner and chair roles at Arthur Cox. One rotates, while the chairman’s role has been held by O’Dwyer for 11 years. O’Dwyer has always been the real influence at the firm.”

‘Squire Dwyer’, as he is nicknamed in Dublin, is also likely to have been at the very top of Arthur Cox’s remuneration. The freeing up of his equity will be another plus for the firm in what can be seen as a new start for the Dublin giant.

After O’Dwyer’s exit, the post will change to a maximum of two four-year terms, the same as the managing partner position. The successor to O’Dwyer as head of corporate has yet to be appointed.