Business Irish

Monday 10 December 2018

€755m bonanza for 'Big Seven' Irish law firms

Top commercial companies enjoy €35m turnover surge despite nervousness over the potential impact of Brexit

The figures indicate strong growth at the top end of the legal services market in Ireland despite concerns about the potential impact of Brexit. Stock photo: PA
The figures indicate strong growth at the top end of the legal services market in Ireland despite concerns about the potential impact of Brexit. Stock photo: PA
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The top seven law firms in Ireland saw their revenues surge last year, according to market analysts.

Combined turnover for the country's 'Big Seven' law firms was an estimated €755.5m in 2017 - a jump of €35m on the previous year.

The figures indicate strong growth at the top end of the legal services market in Ireland despite concerns about the potential impact of Brexit.

The seven firms all feature in a league table of the top 100 revenue-generating law firms in Europe, excluding the UK, compiled by market analysts for specialist legal publication 'The Lawyer'.

Four of the firms - Arthur Cox, A&L Goodbody, McCann Fitzgerald, and Matheson - ranked in the European top 30. Most law firms in Ireland do not reveal information on their earnings and are under no obligation to publish accounts as they are not limited companies.

Only one of the top seven, Mason Hayes & Curran, publishes turnover figures.

'The Lawyer' has consistently been critical of the lack of transparency surrounding data in Ireland.

In its latest 'European 100' report it said extracting data from Irish law firms "proved difficult". None of the firms, for example, would disclose details of financial management or property costs.

However, analysts for the publication have been able to estimate their earnings based on a number of indicators.

The Irish firm with the biggest turnover was Arthur Cox, which had estimated revenues of €150m last year. This was a €6m increase on 2016 and saw the firm ranked 15th in Europe in terms of revenue.

It was closely followed by A&L Goodbody, whose estimated turnover was €148m, up almost €10m on 2016. It was ranked 17th in the European earnings league.

McCann Fitzgerald (€129.5m) was ranked 22nd in Europe in terms of turnover. Matheson (€122m) was ranked 28th, William Fry (€92.8m) was in 37th place, Mason Hayes & Curran (€76m) was 53rd on the list, while Dillon Eustace (€37.2m) was ranked 92nd.

In comparison, the highest earning firm in the report was Spanish-headquartered Garrigues, with a turnover of €357.1m

Turnover at all of the Irish firms was said to have been up last year, with the exception of Mason, Hayes & Curran, which disclosed a 1.3pc dip.

This was the first time in six years the firm had seen declining revenues.

The decline was attributed to Brexit-related nervousness among clients in the first half of 2017.

In contrast, the report said revenues rose by 4.2pc at Arthur Cox, 7pc at both A&L Goodbody and McCann Fitzgerald, 6.1pc at Matheson, 5pc at William Fry and 1.9pc at Dillon Eustace.

Law Society director general Ken Murphy said he was not privy to internal management or profit figures from any law firm, but observed that the fortunes of the industry were closely linked to level of economic activity in the country.

"There is apprehension about Brexit, but there is no doubt the level of activity in commercial law is high at the moment," he said.

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