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MASONS has become the first foreign law firm to open an office in Dublin, while another English practice - Hill Dickinson Davis Campbell - is planning a link up with an Irish firm.
The Masons Dublin office is staffed by Irish-born and trained partner Dudley Solan and an assistant, Eamonn Conlon, both longstanding Masons fee earners.
The pair work out of the rented offices of local firm Gore & Grimes, and are often joined by other Masons solicitors working on secondment. Conlon said Masons had moved into the city because of Ireland's economic growth and subsequent construction boom. The majority of its work is in construction and the pair say their Irish background has helped them integrate into the close-knit Irish legal community.
Meanwhile, Liverpool-based Hill Dickinson is looking to follow Masons into the city by entering into a close association with a Dublin firm.
Hill Dickinson managing partner Tony Wilson said the firm had held preliminary talks with several firms.
"What we see is a possibility that we do work for Irish firms where they need assistance in English law," said Wilson.
Such an arrangement would probably be exclusive and it would assist Hill Dickinson in servicing insurance clients in Dublin.
Senior Dublin lawyers have reacted with surprise to Hill Dickinson's plans. The 12 largest firms in the city rely on US and English referrals, so an exclusive arrangement would seem economically unsound.
"If Hill Dickinson is going to do that, it is almost certainly with a firm of no significance," said a partner in a large Dublin firm. "If it was restricted to insurance work, it would make some sense."
Jan Hayes, senior partner at Hayes & McGrath, said that his insurance-based practice had not been approached by Hill Dickinson but he agreed that firms like his would find such an association attractive.
The Lawyer understands that Manchester firm Addleshaw Booth & Co has also been looking to recruit lawyers in Dublin.