As more and more investments flowed and businesses became more complex, it was time to set up a niche boutique corporate law firm, managing partner Adrian Wall tells.
A Cork law firm dedicated to business came about because of an obvious gap in the market, according to ReganWall managing partner Adrian Wall.
The firm offers in-depth legal counsel and strategic legal advice on mergers and acquisitions, investments, intellectual property and technology, and commercial contracts. Mr Wall and partner Kieran Regan launched the firm in February.
Mr Wall said: “We saw an opportunity in the market to establish a niche boutique corporate law firm, focused on high-level commercial corporate advice, and delivering strategic transactions for clients.
“There is a real lack of that kind of firms around, we are the first — it is not the kind of firm that has traditionally existed in Cork. Most of the other firms have probably broad service lines, and, in many cases, more traditional services lines, so we saw an opportunity to bring a focus to this sector in the market.”
There is increased merger and acquisition activity across multiple sectors and an abundance of investment. Firms also have to navigate new waters such as healthcare and life sciences companies holding extensive intellectual property rights, he said.
“Kieran and I have been working with this type of company for a number of years, so it is very much an understanding of what they do, and the issues for them, their challenges and what is important. You’re speaking at a level where you understand their business, and the challenges they face.”
For growing businesses, capital is a huge challenge, Mr Wall said.
“Working capital, in terms of how they grow and expand, whether they take in money from investors or try and grow without investment — we would see that as a huge challenge.
“There is a lot of money around to invest in businesses, and interest rates internationally are very low at the moment, so we’re seeing a lot of interest from overseas companies looking to get a foothold in Ireland, and acquire and invest in Irish businesses — to put their capital to good use.”
The personal offering of a smaller firm can make entrepreneurs more comfortable as they tackle the challenges that come with growing a startup, according to Mr Wall.
We represent businesses of all sizes, right from early stage looking for seed capital and early stage investment, right up to larger Series A rounds. They do need good advisors because as soon as you go down that road, you are on a path where they don’t really have as much control of their own destiny and are answerable to investors. But that brings lots of good things in terms of structure, the investors often bring opportunities.
“The old view of investors just looking at returns is diminishing, the smarter clients we have now are looking to connect them with others in their network, to open doors and bring diversification of markets. We also act for a lot of investors, so we can see it from both sides.”
When it comes to technology entrepreneurs, some aspects of business can be a challenge they have never quite faced, Mr Wall said. “A lot of people in tech and knowledge business often have their focus on developing the product and solutions, maybe without the customer engagement.
“But we have noticed that changing through the years, so that nowadays a lot of our clients are working with their customers at a much earlier stage, figuring out what they want and working in a collaborative manner, as opposed to the old idea of coming up with solutions that might be wonderful in the eyes of the entrepreneur but not necessarily something that works for the customer.”
SMEs need particular attention, he said. “We would see our business model as very much being aligned with our customers’ space, and we are able to deliver more value to the client. To an extent, the hourly or fixed rate doesn’t work for indigenous companies and SMEs. They don’t want surprises, they want transparency all the time.
“For transactions we are working on, we are working on a charging structure more aligned with what the client wants, and offering a base fee to take the work on, and a success fee at the end, so we are linked to the client in that sense. There is much more openness about billing, and it tends to be much more project-focused, we are giving clear fee indications for particular tasks. Ultimately there are no surprises.”
Intellectual property is very challenging for businesses in the digital revolution, said Mr Wall.
In the past, lots of clients would have registered intellectual property such as patents, designs, and trademarks. That is still very prevalent in medical devices and diagnostics, but on the tech side, we act for a number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses, and that is all about their code, their internal intellectual property.
A lot of it comes down to retaining key people in the business. We are doing a lot of work around executive share plans and employee share plans that had died off for a while but are very much coming to the fore again, as companies find ways of keeping key people.