TOP THREE Irish firm Arthur Cox is set to add to its growing Northern Ireland presence with the takeover of Belfast firm Martin & Brownlie.
The merger, which signals Arthur Cox's continuing expansion plans in Northern Ireland, follows a similar move in July last year when the lawyers from another Belfast firm, Norman Wilson & Co, joined forces with Arthur Cox just six months after the Dublin firm had set up its Belfast office.
Arthur Cox is one of only two firms from the Irish Republic with a presence in Northern Ireland. Dublin's biggest firm, A&L Goodbody, formed an association with leading Belfast firm Elliott Duffy Garrett at about the same time as Arthur Cox set up in Northern Ireland at the beginning of 1996.
Arthur Cox Northern Ireland will now be staffed by a dozen lawyers, including five partners.
Martin & Brownlie partner Peter Martin and an associate join the Arthur Cox Northern Ireland office.
Martin, an experienced litigator, decided to join Arthur Cox because he was left with a surplus of work after the recent departure from his firm of his business partner, Isobel Brownlie, to become a district court judge.
Martin works in employment law, defence litigation, receiverships and liquidations, and marine and commercial law.
Arthur Cox Northern Ireland partner Rowan White said the partners at his firm were pleased to take on an experienced litigator to expand their own litigation practice.
White said: "We are always on the look-out for new people but not only through mergers.
"Cross-border work is a particularly successful area for us because our firm is uniquely placed to service that market."
UK firm Kennedys has an associated office in Belfast, while Travers Smith Braithwaite maintains a presence in Holywood, a small town near to Belfast.