Pinsents loses trio of Belfast partners and Crown Estate panel place

Pinsent Masons has lost three more partners in Belfast, including employment partner Adam Brett and corporate partner Richard Gray, just months after a duo quit for local firm Carson McDowell.

Gray is following his former colleagues, real estate partner Dawson McConkey and finance partner Sinead McGrath, to Carson McDowell (1 May 2013), while Brett is joining employment boutique Jones Cassidy Jones as a senior partner.

Commercial property specialist Graham Pierce left Pinsents for Belfast firm Worthingtons just over a month ago.

The departures follow the news of a competitive tender for the Crown Estate’s Northern Irish legal work, which was won by Irish firm Arthur Cox. In a recent statement the Crown estate said the firm’s appointment is on a five-year basis, and covers the majority of its activities across its £14.8m portfolio in Northern Ireland, including its rights to license renewable energy and gas storage offshore.

A spokesperson for the Crown Estate confirmed that Pinsents had previously been the main legal adviser to the body in Northern Ireland, a relationship which is understood to have been inherited from L’Estrange & Brett. The Belfast firm merged with legacy McGrigors in 2009 (28 August 2009), before being absorbed by the Pinsent Masons merger in 2012 (6 February 2012).

At Carson McDowell Gray will jointly head the corporate practice alongside Neasa Quigley. Managing partner Michael Johnston said the hire was “fantastic”.

Market sources told The Lawyer that Pinsents had also lost a number of associates in Belfast over the last few months, and was trying to recruit to replace them.

A spokesperson for Pinsent Masons said the office currently employed seven partners and “around 50 lawyers”.

”We are looking forward to welcoming several new joiners in autumn ahead of our move into presitigious new premises at the Soloist building later this year, and will continue to make investments of benefit to our clients in Northern Ireland as they seek to grow at home and overseas,” the spokesperson added.