Dentons to launch in Ireland after hiring partner duo from top local firms

Global giant promises to grow Dublin office quickly after securing founding team from William Fry and Matheson

Dentons is to open for business in Ireland with the hire of senior partners from two leading local firms. Eavan Saunders (pictured), who is joining from William Fry, and Matheson partner Peter O'Brien, will be the Dublin office’s founding partners, assuming the roles of managing partner and chairman respectively.

The move is a striking departure from Dentons’ standard policy of entering new jurisdictions by way of combinations, although the firm has promised to grow the office quickly, a pledge that may shake up the tight-knit market if the firm is successful.

“Ireland is a priority market for many of our clients,” said global chief executive Elliott Portnoy. “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." 

UK and Middle East head Jeremy Cohen added: “Over the next few months we will be looking to hire further outstanding legal talent as we develop our plans to quickly reach full service capability. This is a really exciting opportunity for up and coming Irish lawyers with an international mind-set."

Saunders, who has already joined Dentons, was a corporate partner at Ashurst for eight years before joining William Fry as a partner in September 2014. 

She will be joined ‘shortly’ by O'Brien, according to Dentons. His practice covers banking and structured finance with a special emphasis on project finance.

The firm says the office will be fully operational by Q2 of 2020 when it will initially focus on transactional work for clients particularly in financial services, real estate, energy, infrastructure and technology.

The move fills a significant gap in the global giant’s international network, which boasts 181 locations across 73 countries. Last year it snapped up firms across the US, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Dentons joins a growing roster of international law firms to launch in Dublin ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU. Last year Clyde & Co set up shop in the Irish capital following in the footsteps of Simmons & Simmons and Lewis Silkin (both in 2018) and Pinsent Masons (2017).

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