Irish eyes are smiling on London

The central role played by the City in international finance has, over the years, led many law firms from around the world to establish offices in London.

For Irish law firms, the motivation to establish in London has been all the stronger given the substantial trading links between the two countries and their geographical proximity.

Irish firms flourished in the city during the boom years of the 1980s. They were largely insulated from the worst effects of the early 1990s recession because they had expanded less rapidly than their UK counterparts and were also helped by the development of new initiatives in Irish financial and industrial fields.

The successful establishment and growth of the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin, for example, led to a new flow of work from clients, in the UK and elsewhere, wanting to establish themselves in and operate out of the centre.

Broadly speaking, there are three primary functions performed by the London offices of Irish firms. They advise Irish clients doing business in the UK or with international institutions based in the UK; they advise UK-based clients doing business in Ireland; and they also play an important role in maintaining contacts with existing clients and developing new relationships.

The emphasis placed on each of these three areas differs from firm to firm. For example, this firm opened its London office in the mid-1980s to cater for the rapidly expanding volume of work it was doing for institutional and other clients in the UK. It concentrates on advising UK-based clients doing business in Ireland, so its lawyers only practise Irish law. And although business development is an important part of the firm's overall role, it is secondary to its client work.

The London office concentrates solely on commercial work, but the range of that work is very broad, encompassing mergers and acquisitions, general corporate, corporate finance, venture capital, securities, banking and financial services.

Over the past year the office has experienced a marked upturn in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions work, including its involvement as Irish lawyers to Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO), which attempted to take over Aran Energy last summer.

While the office operates independently of the main office in Dublin, work flows can be regulated either by referring matters back to Dublin or, alternatively, bringing additional lawyers over to the office to work on matters requiring additional manpower. This is all part of the flexibility essential to the efficient functioning of a branch office.

One of the main advantages of having an office in London is the ability to meet with clients at short notice. The firm has found that many clients prefer having their lawyers present at important meetings rather than them being on the other end of a phone line.

The London office operates as a satellite of the main practice in Dublin and has the benefit of its administrative, accounting and library facilities. The use of a modem link also facilitates the immediate transmission of documents between the two offices.

The firm rotates the lawyers working in the office as new people every two to three years bring fresh impetus and enthusiasm to the role.

A&L Goodbody's London office plans to continue much as it has done since its foundation. The set-up works well within the overall direction of the practice and has proved it has the necessary flexibility to adapt to changes in the market.