By Joe Dermody
THE resolution of disputes in evolving areas such as construction, landlord-tenant relations, and environmental waste management is creating a wealth of opportunities for experienced Irish law firms.
So says Harry Fehily, managing partner of Holmes O’Malley Sexton (HOMS) Solicitors, a firm which is also enjoying growth on the strength of its advice to Irish exporters seeking to break into new markets and new jurisdictions. Is Brexit fuelling any of this growth?
“I am slow to talk about Brexit as being good for Ireland when I see how it will hurt so many businesses, but the legal sector certainly has the opportunity to be one positive to come out of it,” said Harry Fehily. “I was in New York recently and I met with people from Skadden, one of USA’s top law firms.
“A lot of people in the States want to work with EU-based law firms who are English-speaking and operating in a common law jurisdiction. This gives us an advantage over London firms, and over other EU-based firms, who mostly work in codified law systems [ie, not Common Law].”
Also of big interest for those in the legal profession is the Dublin International Arbitration Day in the Aviva Stadium on Friday, November 16. The 20 or so speakers will include High Court judge David Barniville and Colm McInerney of US law firm Skadden.
Mr Fehily has led HOMS on a growth curve that has really taken off since the worldwide recession that accompanied the crash of the global banking sector. In recent years, the company has been adding new offices in cities many would have thought of as oversupplied with law firms.
Founded in Limerick in 1970, HOMS has a total staff of around 150 people, including 40 solicitors, with offices in Dublin since 2009 and London since 2014. Among other services, the London office acts as a legal portal for companies looking to set up or expand in the UK market.
This week, HOMS has formally opened new offices at 1A South Mall, Cork. This office will be headed up by John Ringrose, the partner who has acted for the company in Cork for several years.
“Our Cork office is in the centre of the business district,” said Harry Fehily. “Each of our offices opened as a result of client demands. We reached a critical mass of clients who are based in Cork that made our decision a simple one on a pragmatic commercial basis.
“Cork has always been on our radar. We had to bed down our Dublin office first. Then the London opportunity presented itself. Adding Cork now gives us the nationwide coverage that our clients want.
“We have also committed as part of our strategic renewal program to support the communities in which we operate and this, to us, means having a physical presence and providing employment in the region where we are operating in addition to having a strong CSR programme.”
A full-service law firm, one key area for HOMS is in writing the professional indemnity policies for insurance companies. It successfully represented AIG on the matter of a voided insurance in a case involving U2 and their former accountant, Gaby Smyth.
“We act for a lot of insurance companies on the interpretation of their policies,” said Mr Fehily. “We also do a lot of work in disputes relating to environmental protection insurance. There have been a number of disputes arising from the EPA seeking to remove certain types of rubbish from dumps.
“Cork has a lot of pharmaceutical companies, so we expect there will be continuing issues relating to environmental disputes there. We advise insurance companies on their policies, and we also advise members of the public in this area.”
HOMS prides itself in being a great place to work. It runs a wellness programme, with health checks and assessments, mindfulness, mental health awareness, stress management, nutrition advice, and ongoing fitness activities. Employees take part in the Great Limerick Run and events such as Pieta House, Darkness into Light walk, and the Pieta House 100km cycle.
While the firm prides itself on its role in cases which created a number of groundbreaking legal precedents, some readers will also enjoy a story on the HOMS website under the heading ‘Employee awarded €7,500 for excessive working hours’. It’s well worth a read.
The money in this Labour Court decision may be smaller than many of the big ticket insurance cases HOMS acts in, but it also offers an insight into the depth and variety of the firm’s litigation work. The firm is always alert to changing trends, some high-profile big-fee cases, and others at the opposite end of the scale.
“There will be a lot of disputes in construction in the coming years,” said Mr Fehily. “The country has had very little construction for years, now the sector is becoming active again. We’d also expect more landlord-tenant disputes. A lot of people want to own property, others will want to lease it.
“We’re also seeing young people who will rent property rather than buy. Some don’t even want to own a car. They’d rather rent a Go Car. Some people will buy a home, but rent a summer house. The traditional way of viewing how we live is changing. Our firm must always be ready to be a disruptor, to be open to new ways of doing business.”
Mr Fehily said many construction firms will be open to resolving their disputes via alternative dispute resolution (ADR), an alternative to the courts. The process can be less confrontational, but it does require steady heads on all sides and experienced legal representation.
“The ADR meetings are confidential as they don’t take place in the public domain,” he said. “They’re also faster as the two sides agree on dates between them rather than having to wait for court dates. This will be a huge growth area, especially for corporate clients who want to work privately and face-to-face.
“This area requires specialist training with an accredited mediator. We have a policy of giving our people constant educational opportunities. We want to offer our lawyers a lifelong career, with great opportunities for progression.”
Holmes O’Malley Sexton is also a member of the International Lawyers Network, an association of 91 law firms worldwide. The network has over 5,000 lawyers serving clients in 66 countries on six continents.
Fiona Peppard has been promoted to account executive with communications firm Heneghan PR. She joined in March as an intern. She gives support across corporate, technology and healthcare clients including The Rotunda Hospital; Kinetic; Saint John of God Hospital; St Michael’s House; and the South/South West Hospital Group. She previously gave social media and marketing support to beauty brands including Dr Bronner and Salcura. She also serves as PRO for her soccer club, Portmarnock AFC. She has a BA in Communications Studies from DCU and is currently pursuing a Diploma in PR from the Public Relations Institute of Ireland.
Liz Edwards has been named as head of marketing and communications with 4site, a provider of engineering solutions for telecomms for clients including Vodafone, SIRO, Cignal, CityFibre Huawei, 2RN (RTÉ), Three, Ericsson, Nokia, CityFibre, CommScope and enet. She will help build 4site’s brand profile in Ireland, UK and further afield. She previously held lead marketing roles with software firm Asavie. She also worked with BT Global Services. She executed the ‘Global Go to Market Plan’ for Hosted IPT solution partnering with Cisco. She holds a B Comm and an MBS from UCD. 4site is headquartered in Limerick, with offices in Dublin and UK.
Alison D’Arcy has joined Crowe accountants and business advisors in Dublin as tax director. She joins from RBK accountants and business advisors, bringing 17 years experience in all areas of taxation. A Fellow of ACCA and an AITI Chartered Tax Advisor (CTA), she specialises in family business taxation issues, estate and succession planning and tax efficient reward structuring. Crowe, formerly Crowe Horwath, celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016. Originally established in 1941 and named after its founding partners Bastow Charleton, Crowe accountants has grown the business to more than 150 professional staff based in Dublin.
Lisa Kinsella has been named partner at Crowe accountants and business advisors in Dublin, having spent the last two years as tax director. She joined in 2012 bringing ‘Big 4’ and small practice experience. She has advised on optimum structures for share-based remuneration, restructuring, and advised FDI clients setting up in Ireland. She advises high-net-worth clients on inheritance and tax planning. She oversees a portfolio of corporate and personal tax clients, notably in the hotel, tourism and leisure, retail, engineering, software and the not-for-profit sectors. Upon completion of her Chartered Accountancy articles, she qualified as a chartered tax advisor.
Stephen Curtis has been appointed as head of operations with Home For Life, an Irish-owned operator of the government’s Mortgage to Rent scheme, which keeps people in mortgage arrears living in their homes debt-free as local authority tenants. A personal insolvency practitioner, he has stepped down as project manager with the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation (IMHO) to take on responsibility for scaling up Home For Life’s MTR offering. He has eight years experience in financial services, including insolvency, debt restructuring and corporate banking. Authorised by the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and established by Paul Cunningham and Charles and Max O’Reilly Hyland, Home For Life is initially targeting solutions for up to 500 households, equating to a fund of c €100m.
Sarah O’Donovan has been appointed as food and beverage manager at the Montenotte Hotel, Cork. A graduate of Hotel & Catering Management from NUI Galway, with postgrad qualifications in HR from Dublin Institute of Technology, she brings six years experience in the hotel and catering management in Ireland and France. The hotel’s general manager, Brian Bowler, said that the hotel continues to invest in both the property and in personnel as part of its long term growth strategy.
Sarah said: “The Montenotte Hotel has scooped every hotel accolade in the last 18 months, and I look forward to helping deliver even more awards for this outstanding hotel.”