Latest cross-border partnership formalises close relationship between firms
Matheson Ormsby Prentice and Cleaver Fulton Rankin have become the latest Irish firms to team up with a cross-border alliance linking their practices in Dublin and Belfast. The move comes shortly after the most high-profile Irish cross-border partnership - the alliance between A&L Goodbody and Elliot Duffy Garrett - collapsed when Goodbodys decided to deal with Northern Irish advisory work using its own dedicated team. However, most of the top Northern Irish firms still have a best-friends relationship. L'Estrange & Brett is linked to McCann FitzGerald, Tughan & Co to William Fry, and Carson McDowell to Mason Hayes & Curran. With the success of the peace process, both foreign investors and government bodies increasingly demand cross-border expertise from law firms. Trade between the north and south of the country has also increased by 99 per cent since 1994, reflecting the improvement in the social and political climate. The Mathesons-Cleaver Fulton alliance will provide formal cooperation for Irish businesses and foreign investors involved with cross-border work. The two firms will cooperate on inward investment, cross-border public bodies, public-private partnerships (PPP), M&A, corporate finance, commercial litigation and private client work for high net-worth individuals. Michael Irvine, a partner at Mathesons, said: "Corporate finance, PPP and advice in specialist areas like tax and competition will be particularly key areas for cooperation." Mathesons and Cleaver Fulton have cooperated informally for some time and the firms are culturally close. They carried out joint work for the Irish Waterways board, one of the first cross-border government bodies. According to Cleaver Fulton partner Patrick Cross, the arrangement was formalised partly because "each party wanted to ensure that the other didn't go off and do something else". He added: "The alliance will be as close as you can get without a merger." The firms are well matched and of similar standing in their own markets. Existing close relationships between the lawyers should benefit the alliance. Both Mathesons and Cleaver Fulton considered the failure of the Goodbodys alliance before putting the final touches to their own agreement. Cross, however, claimed: "You have to get the individuals in the departments to work very closely together. That's how you make these things work."