Business Irish

Saturday 18 November 2017

Innovation helps law firm punch above its weight

Company focus: McDowell Purcell

LEGAL EAGLE: Thomas O'Malley, managing partner at McDowell Purcell
LEGAL EAGLE: Thomas O'Malley, managing partner at McDowell Purcell

McDowell Purcell, ranked among Ireland's top 20 law firms, recently acquired an additional 2,000 square feet of office space and will add up to 20 people over the next 12 to 15 months.

The company, based in the Capel Building in central Dublin, competes with larger firms, offering a full suite of legal services including, property, banking, litigation, corporate, employment, public and regulatory, insolvency and renewable energy.

While its rates are typically 20-30 per cent below the top 10 firms, their challenge is to convince new clients that their service matches that of larger firms. There is still a concentration of State work in the large firms despite commitments by now former minister Alan Shatter to increase competition by using more firms. Mid-tier firms such as McDowell Purcell offer a partner-led service at reduced rates.

In 2007 they recruited a business development director, which has been a major contributing factor in managing their growth. In 2013 a full rebrand helped to position McDowell Purcell as a corporate law firm of choice.

Again, the firm's challenge has always been to ensure that they understand client needs. They recently incorporated a client care programme and use client feedback to tailor how to deliver services.

Paul Wyse

Managing director, Smith and Williamson

In this year's Smith & Williamson's survey of the legal sector the more positive economic outlook was mirrored by an increased positivity amongst senior lawyers. These sentiments are also echoed by McDowell Purcell.

A key issue facing the sector is maintaining profitability in a very challenging fees environment. Two in three firms in our survey reported significant downward pressure on fees with 36 per cent reducing their hourly billing rates. Most firms have continued to agree to more fixed fees for assignments to secure work.

In recent years the legal profession has recognised the value and the need for marketing and business development. Investment in those efforts has grown significantly.

McDowell Purcell was well ahead of many in recruiting a marketing and business development director in 2007.

McDowell Purcell have successfully managed their practice to grow over the last three years and have expanded their service offering to clients, notwithstanding the difficult economic environment.

Derek Ryan

Director, Smith and Williamson financial services

Working closely with the pensions law department of McDowell Purcell we see the attention to detail that is so important in respect of the advice that is given when it comes to pension schemes, be they company or personal.

The firm likes to examine the conflicts that exist in all plans whether they are between the employer and the trustees, the pension provider and the adviser, even down to the charges being levied on the pension and whether they are for the client's benefit or the investment manager.

The demise of defined benefit schemes has meant that more than ever legal advice is essential for all parties involved (the employer, the trustees and the member) to insure all the options are available when schemes are wound up, retired or transferred to another arrangement.

The pensions team in McDowell Purcell, in working with the pensions offering in Smith & Williamson, has insured that their clients are well looked after.

Dan Holland

Head of assurance and business services Dublin, Smith and Williamson

It is obvious from the results of the most recent annual Smith & Williamson survey of Irish law firms that the legal sector continues to face a range of commercial issues such as cash-flow pressure, availability of finance and downward pressure on fees.

The survey also indicates a clear lack of consensus regarding the potential benefits of the proposed reform measures contained within the much discussed, but as yet not enacted, Legal Services Regulation Bill.

In the context of the specific issues facing the legal sector and the general economic environment in recent years McDowell Purcell is a real success story having achieved significant growth founded on an entrepreneurial approach from the partners to running the firm.

In particular, McDowell Purcell's proactive approach to business development, implementation of a true multi-discipline service offering and continued focus on client service has facilitated its growth.

Sunday Indo Business

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