Perils of complacency

The move by Kennedys to set up an office in Belfast is a brave one, despite its unfortunate timing. The Northern Irish legal marketplace is small and difficult to penetrate. However, with increasing numbers of English companies going to the province, there is more business for one and all, although NI lawyers would be the first to admit that there had been less of a peace dividend than expected. The latest move will doubtless cause some shock to the local lawyers who have not, to date, had to worry about outside law firms. A Dublin firm, Arthur Cox, was the first outsider to take the plunge following the ceasefire and Kennedys is hot on its heels. Although outsiders with local offices have been thin on the ground, local Belfast firms have nonetheless lost business to English firms in the past – business they ought have been able to keep. The arrival of Kennedys should concentrate their minds somewhat. It is essential that local firms take these moves on board and adapt their practices accordingly. They must attune themselves to marketing instead of expecting clients to come to them. If they don't, Belfast firms will quickly find themselves disadvantaged in the quest for English clients.