Interview: Nicholas Butcher, Maples Group

12 May 2020 | 03.00 pm

Interview: Nicholas Butcher, Maples Group

'To be the best law firm in the market, you need the best people in the market'

12 May 2020 | 03.00 pm

The Irish legal landscape is in flux but more competition raises the bar, says Maples Group Managing Partner, Nicholas Butcher (pictured)

How has the year been for Maples Group?

2019 was a very strong and memorable year for the Maples Group, both in Ireland and across the globe. We reached a significant milestone in the group’s history, welcoming our two thousandth employee in November last year.

In addition to this celebration, we completed a complex rebrand, which saw Maples and Calder and MaplesFS consolidate under a single brand, now called the Maples Group. This rebrand brought together our internationally recognised services, reflecting our clients’ desire to use us across multiple business lines and time zones with the assurance of a truly connected service.

Over the past 18 months, the group also opened new offices in Abu Dhabi, Bermuda, China, Jersey and Luxembourg, bringing the total numbers of offices across the globe to 18.

As we enter a new phase of growth in the European region, our lawyers in Dublin work particularly closely with lawyers and professionals in our Jersey, London and Luxembourg offices, and I am happy to report that these offices also performed exceptionally well in 2019. 

Among your firm’s departments, what areas have you particularly focused on?

We are very strategic in our approach to growth and our response to our clients’ needs. In March 2019, in response to this, we relaunched our employment law practice with the appointment of partner Karen Killalea, who now heads the team. 

Our funds and investment team continues to excel and grow year on year. In February of this year, the firm was proud to be ranked as the top funds legal adviser to Irish-serviced funds for the seventh consecutive year by the Monterey Insights Ireland Funds Report. This independent report also showed that from 2010 to 2019, the number of Irish-serviced funds that our team advised increased by a staggering 122%. 

On foot of this growth, Niamh O’Shea and Ronan Cremin were appointed as partners in January 2020, bringing the total number of partners on our funds and investment management team to 14. Our tax team was further bolstered by the promotion of Lynn Cramer to partner, while our property team also saw promotions following an exceptional year in 2019.

All of our practice areas are highly complementary of each other and form a service network to respond to the needs of our international clients. We therefore devote proportional resources to each practice area.

What are your thoughts on the new entrants to the Irish legal sector from overseas?

The Irish legal landscape is obviously in a huge period of flux, with a number of new market entrants. This competition raises the bar, bringing out the competitive spirit in our lawyers, and I am confident we will continue to improve our offering, even in these particularly turbulent times. 

As well as this, we are at a very different stage of development to others in the market, both the domestic firms and the more recent arrivals taking advantage of Brexit. We initially entered the Irish market in 2006 and have been successfully operating here for 14 years now, continuing to grow and excel, despite the financial crisis of 2008.

With this experience, I am confident we are equipped to navigate the inevitable challenges that we will face in the weeks and months ahead. Our business model, working alongside our fund and fiduciary colleagues, give us a distinct competitive advantage. 

Ireland, along with most of the world, is in the grip of the Covid-19 crisis. It remains to be seen what impact this unprecedented event will ultimately have on the Irish legal market, but it is almost certain to herald changes. 

How competitive is the sector on fees and what scope is there to increase charge-out rates?

There is no denying it is a highly competitive Irish legal market, but at the Maples Group we pride ourselves on our innovative ways of thinking. We ensure to listen to our clients’ needs in order to create novel and tailored solutions for them. We also place a huge emphasis on cultivating strong and long-lasting relationships with our clients, which we believe is fundamental to top-tier service and success.

What is your USP in the increasingly competitive legal sector?

I have always said that our people are our most important asset. To be the best law firm in the market, you need the best people in the market — simple as that. And our people need to be fulfilled to excel. That is why we place a huge emphasis in ensuring our people are satisfied professionally, as I truly believe that a positive culture enhances and improves client service.

Over the past year at the Maples Group, we have spent a huge amount of time working with our HR team to improve our maternity, paternity and parental leave policies to support new parents. As well as this, we have recently introduced a range of flexible and agile working policies for our people as we accommodate employees’ changing needs, and invest in the future of our people. 

We realised that agile offices not only benefit the workplace, but also the family and they allow employees to achieve a healthy work-life balance. At present, all of our lawyers and professionals have the necessary capabilities to enable them to work effectively on a remote basis, with secure access to relevant internal platforms, as required.

Separately to this, we have always ensured to focus on a very select number of practice areas, which means our lawyers have deep sectoral knowledge in their respective fields — if we are not going to be the best at something, we simply do not do it.

We are also unique in that we are more than just a law firm — we’re a truly global organisation providing legal, fund and fiduciary services to clients across five legal jurisdictions with 18 global locations. 

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