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09 July 2020

Dentons delays launch of Dublin office due to Covid-19

Plans for opening of 'fully operational' Irish branch in Q2 are put back to September

By John Malpas

Eavan Saunders

Eavan Saunders joined Dentons in January to spearhead the Dublin office launch

Dentons has put back the launch of its Dublin office by four months to September due to the impact of Covid-19.

When the firm announced its much-anticipated Ireland launch on 8 January, it promised to ‘grow the office quickly’ and be ‘fully operational’ in Q2, initially providing transactional work for clients in the financial services, real estate, energy, infrastructure and technology sectors.

However, to date, the firm has announced the arrival of just three partners: founding partners Eavan Saunders and Peter O'Brien, and Shane O'Donnell,  whose recruitment from William Fry was announced on 3 February.

A spokesperson confirmed a scheduled May opening had been put back to September due to Covid-19 with further hires at partner and associate level expected to be announced at that point.

The firm has, however, secured premises having signed a two-year sub lease for office space in Dawson Street in Central Dublin that would give it the capacity to house 45 employees, according to the Irish Times.

Dentons’ approach to launching in Ireland represented a departure from its usual strategy of securing tie-ups with leading firms in its target jurisdictions. 

“Ireland is a priority market for many of our clients,” global chief executive Elliott Portnoy said in January. “However, many of the strongest firms in Ireland rely on referrals from firms outside of London.  That is why we are opening our own office rather than combining with another firm at this time." 

Saunders, who will be office managing partner, also joined from William Fry, while Peter O'Brien joined from Matheson.

Although Ireland’s Covid-19 lockdown measures have been eased, office workers are still encouraged to work from home — a further relaxation of the measures is scheduled for 20 July, when gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors will be permissible.

When it does go live, Dentons’ Dublin office will fill a signficant gap in its international network. 

For the time being at least, however, the Covid-19 pandemic appears to have halted the global firm’s relentless expansion across the globe.

In 2019, Dentons sealed 14 combinations, including two in the US: Dentons Bingham Greenebaum and Dentons Cohen & Grigsby.

Those combinations went live on 28 January, heralding Dentons’ ‘project golden spike’ to build a network of regional US firms that will ultimately cover the entire US.

However, according to Altman Weil MergerLine, just seven law firm combinations were announced in the US in the second quarter, all involving acquisitions of small law firms with 20 or fewer lawyers, making it the least active quarter for deals since the third quarter of 2010.

At the start of the month, the merger between Atlanta’s Troutman Sanders and Philadelphia’s Pepper Hamilton, which had originally been scheduled for 1 April, went live creating top 50 US firm Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders.

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