20 March 2006
The O'Donnell Sweeney (ODS) linkup with Eversheds International (EI) announced late last year was a significant development in the Irish legal market. The development is a good fit. ODS is a major player in the Irish market with a substantial presence in commercial law. EI is a network of international law firms in Europe, Asia and the Middle East joined together under the Eversheds brand. The relationship fuses local expertise and knowledge with international infrastructure and market presence.
For ODS, the relationship represents the next step in the firm's long-term development strategy. Building on the deliberate expansion of the firm and the sustained development of its commercial base, the membership of EI allows ODS to meet the changing needs of its clients. The firm is now in a position to service the needs of indigenous clients whose businesses are growing internationally; it is also in a position to offer a comprehensive and competitive service for international clients whose European bases are located in Ireland. In this sense, ODS's participation in EI places the firm at the heart of developments in the Irish professional services market.
For EI, ODS's membership is a further step in its strategy of extending its presence internationally. Many clients are forging global and European partnerships in order to sustain the rate of growth experienced by the Irish economy over the past 10 years. It is important that law firms can offer services and expertise that can cross borders.
Since the tie-up, EI and ODS have had the opportunity to work jointly on a range of significant deals, including, for example, the recent sale of Conduit Group, Ireland's largest non-incumbent directory enquiries services provider, to Investcorp and InfoNXX. This transaction required a multi-jurisdiction analysis of competition issues in relation to all potential bidders for the business.
Over the past few months ODS's banking and finance team has worked closely with EI on a series of structured and property finance deals for AIB Corporate Banking in the UK and mainland Europe.
For a number of years, ODS has been engaged in a systematic development programme, positioning itself to enter an important strategic alliance, and its membership of EI is evidence that the development has paid off. The programme has included developing expertise from young lawyers in core areas, such as commercial property and corporate law, as well as significant expansion of sectoral and specialist know-how and expertise. ODS has also invested in the lateral hiring of key specialists in areas including employment and construction and projects.
An amount of consolidation has taken place among the mid-tier and smaller tiers of Irish law firms over the past few years. The signs are that this may well continue as competing firms seek to differentiate themselves. For ODS, now that the strategic building blocks are in place, the challenge is to sustain the EI relationship through client work, through active participation in the EI practice groups and through the development of strong one-to-one relationships between itself and EI.
The link-up brings a new element of choice for corporate and commercial legal services in the Irish market compared with the traditional offering in the market. The combination of local knowledge and expertise, boosted by an international capability, is aimed specifically at Irish companies whose businesses are expanding into European and global markets and who want advisers that can travel with them. Similarly, the alliance is also aimed at international businesses headquartered in Ireland.
The relationship between ODS and EI is already very active and both organisations have experienced payback in terms of the flow of work. The parties have also seen real benefits in terms of a shared approach to client work, know-how and exploring business development opportunities. ODS partners have attended workshops, conferences and practice group meetings in the UK and in other European locations, and other EI members have participated in ODS's client seminars and entertainment events.
The relationship is still in its infancy and all parties are very aware that an investment of time and effort will be required from both sides to maintain the momentum in order that the alliance realises its full potential.
Francis Hackett is managing partner at O’Donnell Sweeney