Ireland: Wild Geese: ‘We Were The First Irish Law Firm To Open An Office Here'

Last Updated: 18 September 2017
Article by Mark O’Sullivan

"If you walk into a Starbucks in Palo Alto, you're as likely to overhear someone pitching a start-up idea to a venture capitalist as a discussion about the latest 49ers or Warriors game," says Mark O'Sullivan, tax partner and head of the US West Coast offices of Irish law firm Matheson.

"Silicon Valley is unique and different to most of the rest of the US. There is a definite collaborative vibe amongst the business community in terms of dealing with common issues or concerns. There is also a greater willingness to network and grow relationships outside one's core competency. Meeting someone new is never perceived as a waste of time. Within the start-up community, having an unsuccessful business is not the same 'kiss of death' to one's future prospects as it might be back in Ireland. "

O'Sullivan joined Matheson when he graduated from UCD in 1998. He moved to California with his wife Mary-Catherine in 2007 and his two children were born there.

"The business opportunities here are unrivalled," he says.

"Companies with innovative technologies that will shape the future are popping up every day. Sometimes you see the future taking shape before your eyes and even before it enters mainstream consciousness. For example, we have seen driverless cars from Waymo and others (albeit with drivers onboard) zipping around the streets of Silicon Valley for a number of years.

"Being based in California means I often visit clients at the birthplace of their companies and you get to experience the very distinctive and vibrant energy that created them in the first place. You also get to see the innovative and ground-breaking projects they are working on. Many are embarking on a path that will truly disrupt traditional business sectors."

O'Sullivan has worked through three changes of political administration during his time in the US and says unease always follows an election.

"The level of uncertainty at the beginning of this year did lead to projects stalling for a period of time but in recent weeks, activity levels have picked up and business life carries on as normal," he says.

"I don't think the business environment has changed noticeably since the election, however it is still early in president Trump's regime and he hasn't yet accomplished most of the legislative changes proposed in his election manifesto."

Sleepless nights

O'Sullivan says Trump's stance on immigration is causing sleepless nights in some sectors.

"There is certainly concern about changes to the H-1B visa regime in particular," he says. "It allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialist occupations and has been used widely by US companies to plug skill shortages.

"Silicon Valley technology companies are quite reliant on engineering talent from outside the US. I have heard anecdotes about companies setting up R&D hubs in places like Vancouver to hire non-US engineers. I also believe Ireland can play a more significant role in conducting R&D activities for US technology and bioscience companies."

In addition to his primary degree, O'Sullivan has a diploma in financial services law and is a chartered tax advisor accredited by the Irish Taxation Institute. He is also a registered foreign legal consultant with the State Bar of California. Living in California has allowed him to indulge his passion for outdoor sports (he is into hiking and triathlon) including skiing at Lake Tahoe in the winter.

"From a personal perspective the outdoor life, national parks and climate here are very appealing," O'Sullivan says. "I used to play team sports like Gaelic football and soccer back in Ireland, but it's much more difficult to participate in team sports nowadays."

O'Sullivan divides his time between Palo Alto, the firm's newly opened offices in San Francisco and travelling throughout the US.

"We were the first Irish law firm to open an office here and my main remit is to provide support on Irish legal and tax matters for our West Coast-based clients. The conversation about setting up an Irish operation usually starts here and I also spend a lot of time promoting Ireland as a business destination and building relationships.

"The West Coast and Silicon Valley have been an important part of our firm's international growth strategy since the late 90s. I now spend two to three days a week in San Francisco and while the distance between our two offices is relatively close (40 miles), in many ways they are two separate markets.

"The start-up scene and the location of technology companies in San Francisco is a more recent phenomenon and for the most part does not include any traditional hardware tech companies. Silicon Valley's early history is intertwined with the semi-conductor industry and has existed as a tech centre for far longer."

O'Sullivan says most of the job opportunities on the West Coast for young Irish people are in the tech and life sciences sectors. Software engineers and scientists are in demand as are those skilled in big data analytics.

"Outside of the Bay Area young Irish people have done very well across a broad range of sectors from financial services in New York to the agri-food sector in the Mid-West."

O'Sullivan hails from Valentia Island in Kerry from where the first attempts to lay a transatlantic cable were made in the mid-1850s.

"There's a nice symmetry to the fact that I come from what was a tech hub in the 19th century and now work in the biggest tech hub of the 21st century," he says.

This article originally appeared in the Irish Times

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.