Pinsents’ Belfast struggle

When a big merger happens, questions are raised about whether the enlarged firm is really going to stay committed to all of its offices. In the case of Pinsent Masons and Belfast, that talk started as soon as the merger between Pinsents and McGrigors was announced in February 2012.

The chatter has only got louder in Northern Ireland over the summer, not least because Pinsents has now waved farewell to five Belfast-based partners in less than four months. In May, Belfast firm Carson McDowell made a movefor two partners and has just come back for a third – highly-regarded corporate partner Richard Gray.

Gray’s departure coincides with that of Adam Brett for employment boutique Jones Cassidy Jones, and property partner Graham Pierce also quit recently for another local firm. Pinsents is now down to seven partners in the city. The firm has also lost a key Belfast client, after Irish giant Arthur Cox won a recent panel review for the Crown Estate’s Northern Irish work.

Although things are clearly not all rosy, Pinsents is putting a brave face on the situation. It says it’s hiring and managing partner Paul McBride spoke to us in June about the increased internationalisation of the work the office is doing.

But as more firms move to a nearshoring model in the regions, à la Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith Freehills, the questions over the future of Pinsents’ offering there will keep on coming.

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