Covington & Burling has become the second major U.S. law firm with an office in Ireland, a move prompted by the U.K.’s impending exit from the European Union.
The new Dublin office for Covington, which has not yet confirmed the move, will focus on life sciences and technology work. The new office in the Irish Republic is currently waiting for regulatory clearance from the Irish Law Society.
Covington has hired local lawyer Maree Gallagher (pictured right), of counsel at Irish firm Beauchamps Solicitors, to staff its new base. Gallagher also runs her own food and life sciences-focused firm in Dublin called Maree Gallagher Associates.
Another Am Law 100 firm in Dublin is Dechert, which set up a funds-focused office in the city back in 2010 after hiring William Fry partner Declan O’Sullivan. Brown Rudnick, which opened a Dublin office in 2002, quietly closed that outpost last year after seeing its former local leader leave after the firm was caught up in a controversial deal involving a large private equity client.
The American Lawyer reported in 2016 on the opportunities facing Irish firms and those licensed to practice law in the country—a member of the EU—after the so-called Brexit vote in the U.K. There has subsequently been significant speculation around the possibility of more international firms entering the Irish Republic as the Brexit process proceeds.
Earlier this year, British firm Pinsent Masons opened in Dublin after hiring three partners from local firms, making it the first international firm to set up shop in Ireland following last year’s Brexit vote. The Dublin legal scene is abuzz with rumors about which firm will be the next to enter the city, with global legal giant DLA Piper among those expected to enter the market.
“Post-Brexit, there will be more institutions looking to have a presence in Ireland, so opening there would be consistent with our strategy,” DLA Piper senior partner Juan Picon told Legal Week in January.
For its part, Covington is planning to create a separate partnership in Ireland, with life sciences partner Grant Castle and technology partner Daniel Cooper in London as the founding partners. Both lawyers already hold Irish practicing certificates and are registered on the Irish roll of solicitors.
Covington has already received its first Irish mandate, acting for South Plainfield, New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company PTC Therapeutics Inc. in an appeal to the Irish High Court against a decision by the Irish Health Service Executive in connection with the funding of drugs for rare diseases. (Covington declined to comment about its work and plans in Ireland.)
While the Irish market is traditionally dominated by a local “Big Five” of firms—A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, Mathesons, McCann FitzGerald and William Fry—there have been some foreign firms that have entered the jurisdiction within the past decade.
Those firms include Eversheds Sutherland—formed via a cross-border combination earlier this year—insurance-focused British firms such as BLM, DAC Beachcroft, DWF and Kennedys, and offshore firms like Maples and Calder and Walkers.
In addition, a rash of U.K. firms have moved to register lawyers on the Irish roll as an insurance policy against Brexit. Earlier this year, it was reported that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer had the 11th most solicitors registered in Ireland, despite not having an office in the country.