Global expertise and local presence

PEYE 130514KB3 0103 The Belfast office of international law firm Pinsent Masons is entering a busy and exciting period of growth. Head of Office Paul McBride talks to Owen McQuade about the continued investment the firm is making in Northern Ireland and the multi-sectoral service provided to local and international businesses.

The emerging regeneration of Belfast parallels the growth of Pinsent Masons as the firm expands its Belfast partnership and moves its base to the prestigious Soloist Building on Belfast’s Waterfront area. The international law firm’s relocation to the new development further underscores the long-awaited regeneration of Belfast’s main legal and business district and the impact of investment in Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the move, Paul McBride says: “The area has been given a new lease of life. We are delighted to play a part in this regeneration at such an exciting time for the Northern Ireland market.”

The “mothballing” of the Soloist and other office developments at Lanyon Place were “stark indicators of a country mired in a deep and lasting recession and a construction industry which has endured a severe slowdown of activity,” he says.

McBride sees the office move as a symbol of success for the city as a whole as Belfast embarks on the next stage of economic recovery.

“Belfast is awakening from recession and the private and public investment in our infrastructure, is leading that regeneration,” he comments. “This is a significant investment for Pinsent Masons and one that we feel demonstrates our commitment to Belfast and local Northern Ireland businesses.”

The office move represents the dawning of a new era for Pinsent Masons in Belfast as at this time the firm also promotes Richard Murphy, Laura Gillespie and Paul Gillen to its partnership.

McBride comments: “The breadth of expertise of the new partners demonstrates the firm’s sector and multi-specialism approach which underpins Pinsent Masons. Organic growth is pivotal to us on a domestic and international scale.

“We place great emphasis on nurturing talent and investing in the future of Pinsent Masons and it’s critical that junior lawyers can see a clear career path which has the potential to lead to partnership. Paul, Richard and Laura each began their legal careers with the firm and are practical examples of that progression and we are delighted to have all three as partners in the firm.”

PEYE 130514KB3 0050 New partners

Advising public and private energy clients on a range of regulatory, advisory and transactional matters, Richard Murphy heads the Pinsent Masons Irish Energy and Energy Finance Team. Murphy has a track record in the renewable energy sector, securing a range of high profile mandates across the UK and Ireland, as well as providing expertise on all-island energy issues. Murphy is recognised as an energy policy expert, ranked as a leading lawyer in both Chambers UK and the Legal 500. He sits on the Northern Ireland Renewables Industry Group (NIRIG) committee and is a regular speaker at energy industry events and conferences.

Laura Gillespie is a regulatory and compliance specialist advising clients in relation to compliance, investigations, health and safety, business crime and commercial fraud. Gillespie also regularly delivers training to clients on compliance issues. She has been at the forefront of introducing the firm’s innovations into the Northern Ireland market. Gillespie has just recently launched the firm’s Regulatory and Compliance Forum in Northern Ireland, keeping local businesses up to speed on key issues affecting their day-to-day running.

Employment specialist Paul Gillen began his career in human resource management, spending over a decade working in a variety of roles across a range of sectors including retail, construction, civil engineering and manufacturing. Gillen is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is currently secretary to its Northern Ireland branch committee.

He advises clients on contentious matters, including industrial and fair employment tribunals, High Court employment matters and appeals through the higher courts, as well as employment aspects of procurement, insolvency, TUPE, mergers and acquisitions and strategic HR support. Gillen recently worked with CBI Northern Ireland on its policy position in relation to employment law review in Northern Ireland, in addition to contributing to a CBI comparative law paper in an article exploring the differences between employment law in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

McBride says: “As well as providing a service to our clients which crosses all relevant disciplines, we also work seamlessly with the global Pinsent Masons resource. We operate as one firm through an 18-office network with a diverse range of expertise across our core industry sectors – energy and natural resources, infrastructure, financial services and advanced manufacturing and technology.”

The Belfast office is uniquely placed, advising clients in all three jurisdictions of the UK and on both sides of the Irish border. For McBride, this represents an exciting challenge and opportunity for the firm.

“It gives us an unrivalled foothold in the domestic market. Many of our lawyers, such as Paul, are dual-qualified enabling them to advise clients active in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” says McBride. “This will be

increasingly advantageous as inbound and outbound business activity surges post-recession. There is an appetite for export among local businesses and some terrific examples of Northern Ireland entities growing through the export market. We have the expertise to work with them throughout that process across a range of jurisdictions.”

Global scope

Pinsent Masons has eight other offices in the UK, two in continental Europe (Paris and Munich), a further office in Istanbul, and a presence in the Middle East (Doha and Dubai) as well as the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore).

PEYE 130514KB3 0076 “Our ambition is to support each client as it expands and enters new global markets or new sectors. Having a breadth and depth of skills within the firm allows us to do that,” says McBride.

Many of Pinsent Masons’ Belfast clients are indigenous blue chip enterprises blended with large corporates based in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland or overseas. Phoenix, Viridian, Schrader and Coca Cola are among its local corporate clients. So too is Ulster Carpets, recently named UK Exporter of the Year by the Private Business Awards. The success of Ulster Carpets is indicative of the resilience of Northern Ireland businesses.

“Most of the clients we work with have coped well over the past few years. They tend to have a strong export base and strong export credentials which means they have not been overly dependent on the Northern Ireland economy. This combination has been critical to success.”

However, the region as a whole has, in his view, moved beyond the green shoots stage of recovery.

“There is tremendous self-belief and confidence emerging in Northern Ireland,” McBride says. “There was almost total breakdown in consumer confidence, and, with the challenges in the banking sector and the global economy it meant that people were just simply reticent in spending. There are a significant number of healthy substantial corporates here.

I think that they are doing well and that is trickling back down through the economy.”

The investment by Hastings Fund in Phoenix Gas provided a “strong stimulus” for corporate activity and put Northern Ireland back on the global stage as a stable and well-regulated economic environment. Pinsent Masons has worked with Phoenix since they established in Northern Ireland in 1996 as what was the largest greenfield gas project in the UK at that time to the major utility success story it is today. That long-lasting relationship is something which Paul McBride sees as a major endorsement of the Pinsent Masons approach and its credentials in the energy sector.

Looking to the future, McBride is very optimistic for Northern Ireland. “Our talent pool is absolutely exceptional, enhancing the reputation of Belfast locally, nationally and internationally,” he remarks in conclusion. “We are proud to deploy this to offer exciting client facing legal work, advising premier local businesses one day and international corporates the next, all from a fabulous location at the Soloist.”

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