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Eversheds has entered a groundbreaking Anglo-Irish alliance with top-10 Irish firm O'Donnell Sweeney.
The firms announced the formation of the new relationship to staff last week, and it will take effect from 1 January 2006.
The two firms will remain financially independent for the time being, but Eversheds chairman Alan Jenkins said: "It's possible that it may end up in a merger."
The terms of the agreement allow for O'Donnell Sweeney to continue to operate under its existing name, but it will be known as "a member of Eversheds International".
Jenkins said that Eversheds had seen a gap in the market with regard to providing a Europe-wide offering for clients, but that the firm also hoped to attract business from US organisations, which see Ireland as the gateway to Europe.
"We want to be the firm of choice for them, covering their business throughout the European Union," Jenkins explained.
As revealed in The Lawyer (3 October), O'Donnell Sweeney is Ireland's seventh-largest law firm with a turnover of Ã¢Â‚Â¬17m (£13m). It has 16 partners and 100 fee-earners, and focuses on commercial and property work. Clients include Irish telecoms giant Eircom, the Irish Nationwide Building Society, and building companies Glenkerrin Homes and Century Homes.
Francis Hackett, managing partner at O'Donnell Sweeney, said the arrangement would enable the firm to grow with its clients.
The association is Eversheds' eleventh new alliance in the last two years.