Ireland: Michael Jackson Believes The Firm’s Growth Is Due To Talent, Innovation And Excellence
Last Updated: 7 April 2016

As the new Managing Partner, what are your ambitions for Matheson in the years ahead?

Throughout my career, I have been determined in my focus to deliver excellence and innovation across client experience. Having an excellent and engaged team of people who understand what we are trying to achieve and the important role they play in achieving it is instrumental to that.

I am fortunate to be Managing Partner of a firm that shares that focus. Along with developing and nurturing our talent we will continue to set the standard for service, value and innovation for our internationally focused clients, both here in Ireland and across the world.

The current economic and regulatory environments continue to present Irish and international businesses with opportunities and challenges in areas on which Matheson has core expertise and experience.

Our strong international presence and our strategic focus on advising internationally focused companies and financial institutions ensures that we are ideally placed to continue to grow as the law firm of choice in our target market.

How has the firm performed over the past year?

In 2016, we are celebrating our 20th year of having a presence in the United States and we continue to be the only Irish law firm with partner-level tax expertise on both coasts. We were the first European law firm to open an office in Palo Alto, and that office has continued to be hugely successful for us.

We have built strong relationships with our clients and intermediaries in the US, and the longevity of our presence there demonstrates our commitment to being close to where our clients are based.

We continued to lead the market in our core areas. Our Tax, Financial Services, Aircraft Finance, International M&A and International Business Groups continue to lead the way in advising international companies and financial institutions on innovative and business-critical assignments.

Matheson advised on two of the three top outbound M&A deals of 2015, according to Mergermarket, and four of the top six inbound deals. Matheson advised Willis, the third-largest insurance broker globally, on its merger of equals with financial management services provider Towers Watson. The combined company, Willis Towers Watson, will be valued at $18bn approximately.

Matheson also advised Abtran, one of Ireland's largest providers of customer and business process management services, on the investment in Abtran by Carlyle Cardinal Ireland, the private equity fund.

We advised Credit Suisse AG on the groundbreaking relocation of its prime brokerage business from London to Dublin. This was the first time that the Central Bank authorised a branch from outside the EU, in this case, Switzerland.

Matheson acted as Irish legal advisors to BMO Global Asset Management in the establishment and regulatory authorisation of an innovative new exchange traded fund for BMO, which is domiciled in Ireland. This was the first ETF authorised using Ireland's new ICAV corporate investment fund structure.

Matheson acted as Irish counsel on the first aircraft ABS exceeding $1 billion since 2008. Domestically our litigation, domestic M&A, banking and real estate practices grew substantially and were involved in matters which were both market leading and innovative.

The appointment of Tara Doyle as my successor as head of our Asset Management practice means that four of our key practice areas (Commercial Litigation, Commercial Real Estate, Asset Management and Investment Funds, and EU Competition and Regulatory) are headed by female partners.

Over 30% of Matheson's partners are female, and 50% of new partners from the last three years have been female. These statistics underline our commitment to diversity in a real and meaningful way.

Are you confident the buoyancy in commercial transactions will continue this year?

The outlook is very positive  While the post-crisis recovery in Ireland is still a work in progress, Ireland has responded in a far stronger way than was anticipated when it was forced to enter the EU/IMF bailout programme in 2010. Ireland successfully exited that programme in 2013 and has recovered economic stability without being forced to sacrifice the key elements of its attractive offering to international investors.

We believe very firmly that international companies and financial institutions will continue to be the cornerstone of the Irish economy over the medium to long term.

In that sense, we remain very confident about our continuing investment in deepening and expanding our offering to those global business sectors where Ireland has a competitive advantage and, in particular, in the broader financial services, technology and pharma sectors, which remain the front runners in this space.

Matheson has further cemented its reputation as the advisor of choice on the most significant financial institutions M&A transactions in Ireland for its role in the acquisitions of Aviva Health and Glo Health by Ireland's biggest life and pensions provider, Irish Life.

Corporate partners Éanna Mellett and Tim Scanlon led the Matheson team which advised on the acquisition of Aviva Health, while Darren Maher and Tim Scanlon led the team which advised on the Glo Health acquisition. Matheson previously advised on the acquisition of Irish Life by Canadian Great-West Lifeco, a sale described by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan as a "historic transaction".

The possibility of the UK exiting from the EU will be watched with great interest in Ireland. Brexit would have a significant impact on Ireland, as the UK is Ireland's largest trading partner. One consequence in the near term may be that international financial institutions decide to move some or all of their existing UK businesses to Ireland to ensure continued unrestricted access to the EU.

What is the hiring practice in Matheson?

The practice of law is a people business. Attracting and retaining talented lawyers and developing relevant expertise is not only critical to delivering the best results for our clients, but also for the firm's continuing growth.

To this end, we have partnered with a number of leading business and law schools (including the Judge Business School in Cambridge, INSEAD and BPP) to create a complete career development programme for our lawyers. Our programme is designed to attract the most talented lawyers to the firm, and to develop them into the best business lawyers in Ireland.

Matheson's role in innovative, high-quality transactions and as legal adviser to leading global companies and institutions on matters critical to their business is also a significant factor in attracting and retaining the best legal talent. We were one of the first law firms in Ireland to create a formal internship programme which has proved highly successful in assisting us in recruiting lawyers.

We also developed the first asset management law course in an Irish university. The Funds Law course, founded and taught by partner Liz Grace, who started her career in investment funds in 2000 at Matheson, is available as part of the Master's of International Business Law Degree, offered jointly by Maynooth University and the Université de Lyon.

Each year, we recruit the top legal talent from this class through a competitive process, and these high-performing graduates join our firm with the legal expertise and the skills specifically developed on the course.

How will the Legal Services Regulation Act impact your business?

As regards the practice of law in Ireland, the recently enacted Legal Services Regulation Act should bring about significant changes in the Irish legal profession in the coming years, including the introduction of multi-disciplinary practices and limited liability partnerships.

This interview first appeared in Business Plus, 30 March 2016.

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