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Actuality bites as Mason Hayes posts 6% income drop in bellwether  for Irish  corporations

Legal Business’ recent analysis of Ireland’s legal market warned against underestimating the resilience of the Irish, so Mason Hayes & Curran’s less-than-catastrophic 6% dip in turnover for a financial year defined by Covid-19 should come as little surprise.

Revenues at the full-service Irish firm fell to €80m as it acknowledged a substantial hit to both transactional and contentious workflows. In a statement, managing partner Declan Black (pictured) chalked up the fall in disputes work to ‘significantly reduced court hearings’. Overall however, he was ‘satisfied’ with the results and noted ‘professional services were comparatively insulated from the worst effects of the pandemic.’  

Historically the only major independent Irish firm to publicise its financial results, Mason Hayes’ announcement acts as an important barometer for the overall financial resilience of the country’s legal market.

Asked for his assessment of how Covid-19 had impacted the market, Black told Legal Business: ‘My instinct is that everybody will have done better than they thought they would back in April to June last year. For most people, it would have been the second quarter which was the worst, but it depends on the practice profile of the firm.’

City litigators have been praising the English courts’ ability to persevere throughout the crisis and have noted the lack of a case backlog, but Black painted a different picture of the Irish system: ‘We have a large contentious practice. You need court dates to drive activity. When you don’t have the discipline of regular court hearings, cases slow down.’

However, despite an understandable drop-off in transactional work in the second quarter of 2020, Black reported a substantial uptick in Q4 which should carry over into 2021: ‘There’s lots of money washing around, looking for something to do. There will be a lot of transactional activity in 2021.’

Despite the revenue downturn, Mason Hayes was able to recruit six partners throughout the financial year, bringing the firm’s total partner headcount to 95.

And there was significant demand for the firm’s technology, life sciences and energy teams. Among a number of high-profile mandates, last year, the technology team acted for Facebook in the landmark Schrems II case regarding the transfer of personal data from Europe to the US.

The energy team advised Norwegian state utility company Statkraft on the €123m sale of two wind farms and the life sciences team defended Quest Diagnostics from clinical negligence claims, among other notable matters.

Black concludes: ‘My overwhelming sentiment is that of gratitude towards our staff, who handled the transition to remote working remarkably well. At the end of the day, clients want high-quality legal advice, they don’t care if you have a nice office!’

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