What do you do when one of your partners finds himself at the centre of a media storm?
Everyone loves a good human interest story, especially if it involves a baby and a random act of kindness in which the randomly kind person disappears. But it’s not that often that you know, or even know of, the people involved in the story.
For the lawyers and staff at Ireland’s A&L Goodbody, the realities of today’s 24-hour, social media-obsessed world were driven home yesterday (26 February) when it emerged that the father of a baby born on a New York sidewalk on Monday was the firm’s New York resident partner, Cian McCourt.
The story went like this. McCourt’s British wife Polly went into labour outside the couple’s apartment in Manhattan. She and the doorman vainly tried to flag a cab down, but her daughter arrived in a rush on the street. McCourt – reportedly stuck in traffic – arrived a short while later.
The already-dramatic situation was given another twist as the generous donor of warm clothes for Polly McCourt and her newborn baby vanished, leaving only a name. The McCourts gave baby Ila the mystery woman’s name, Isabelle, as a middle name in thanks. (A New York newspaper has since tracked down Isabel Williams, who was pictured in a photo on Twitter shivering in a sleeveless top after handing over her coat.)
The whole event may have passed under the radar were it not for a Fox 5 News TV crew who happened to be in the vicinity, propelling the story to international headlines.
When the story broke worldwide, A&L Goodbody found itself deluged with calls from media. As well as the Irish and British press, it got enquiries from France, Germany and the US, with journalists everywhere wanting to track McCourt down. Over in New York, videos and pictures show the McCourts returning home to be greeted by a forest of microphones and the flashing lights of press photographers.
For the firm, this was all a bit different from the usual requests to interview partners about foreign direct investment into Ireland, about which The Lawyer spoke to McCourt just a few weeks ago (20 January 2014). It chose to politely deflect appeals to talk to the partner, instead pointing out that he and his wife deserve a bit of space and privacy, just like any parents of a newborn.
Nevertheless, McCourt has clearly had more than his fair share of press interest in the past few days. Just a bit different from the day job, advising the likes of pharmaceutical giant Elan on a hostile takeover bid (23 April 2013) and resulting acquisition (31 July 2013).
For A&L Goodbody, it marks an eventful week – the firm won The Lawyer’s Irish Firm of the Year award at last week’s European Awards (21 February 2014), although not, it must be said, for its strategy when dealing with babies who choose to make a speedy entrance to the world.