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Ireland's leading corporate firm Arthur Cox has been rocked by the departure of three of the nine partners in its Northern Irish office.
The firm's corporate team has fragmented with the exits of partners Mark Thompson and Peter Stafford.
The two partners are leaving to set up a new corporate and commercial boutique. Commercial property partner Patricia Johnston is also leaving, along with corporate assistant Lisa Richardson.
The exits leave Arthur Cox's Belfast office with just one corporate partner in Kerry Canavan. However, the firm has already recruited two new lawyers, including Ann Gilroy, a Morgan Cole senior associate, who joins as a partner in the corporate group.
The exits of the three partners is a reflection of growing confidence in the Belfast legal market.
"Thirty years of troubles doesn't encourage business opportunities," said a Belfast partner who preferred not to be named. "The corporate and commercial market has stagnated for so long, but now there are opportunities appearing."
Arthur Cox managing partner Pádraig " Ríordáin pointed to the firm's two new partner recruits for Belfast when he said that neither the firm's business nor the service it offers to clients would be affected by the changes.
"We're always sorry when good people leave," he added.