Much has been written about the booming Dublin market in recent years, but the fortunes of firms in Ireland’s second city, Cork, are less well known.
One firm, however, is working hard to raise its profile. Since the turn of the century, Ronan Daly Jermyn (RDJ) has not only been ramping up its presence in its home city, but has also been taking on Ireland’s largest firms in their own back yard.
The firm’s commercial property team, led by partner Pat Ahern, has been advising Barkhill, the developer of the Liffey Valley Centre in Dublin, along with McCann FitzGerald (Barkhill is a joint venture between RDJ client O’Callaghan Properties and McCann client Grosvenor Estates). It is a project the firm is unlikely to have won before its strategic overhaul several years ago.
“Five or six years ago we decided that it was time to push for growth,” says the firm’s managing partner John Dwyer. “There’d been a changing of the guard among the equity partners, which was a catalyst, but also the Cork economy was really taking off.”
According to Dwyer, the firm had also begun to see a “trickle” of lawyers leaving the Dublin, and in some cases the London, legal markets in favour of Cork. “We suddenly had access to people who’d been involved in top work,” he says.
The firm wanted these lawyers to join them, but also knew that if they were going to stay it had to provide them with interesting deals. “It was a bit of a chicken and egg situation,” recalls Dwyer. “But from that point we deliberately began targeting top work in Cork and Dublin.”
RDJ decided to use its strong employment team as a means to act for corporates on more transactional matters. “It was a great door-opener,” says Dwyer.
The six-lawyer team, headed by Jennifer Cashman and Fergus Long, remains a core part of the firm, but it has been eclipsed in size by the corporate group, which comprises around a dozen lawyers. This summer a team from the group, led by tax partner John Cuddigan, proved its international credentials by representing developer Harte Holdings on the acquisition of the Argyll Hotel group of three hotels in West London, a deal that featured Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw on the other side.
Property-related matters are a real driver of the firm’s practice, as might be expected in the booming Irish market. The firm is currently building a niche acting for property-related professional services organisations, such as quantity surveyors, architects and engineers, on corporate deals.
“We just acted for quantity surveyor Nolan Ryan,” says Dwyer, “which was bought by White Young Green in April. There’s a lot of interest from UK companies at the moment in this area.”
Although the firm’s focus is the Munster area, do not bet against seeing RDJ open in Dublin at some point. “So far the business case hasn’t been right for us,” says Dwyer. “But I wouldn’t rule it out.”