Posted on Saturday 22 January 2011 byUlster Business
Belfast-born Julian Yarr took over as managing partner of A&L Goodbody in May last year. He believes that despite the challenges posed by economic conditions in the Republic and Northern Ireland there will also be opportunities for the firm and its clients in 2011
The Managing Partner of law firm A&L Goodbody is in a confident mood going into 2011.
Julian Yarr, who took up the position in May 2010 amid unprecedented economic conditions across the island of Ireland, describes it as both an "exciting and challenging" time to take over.
"It's a stimulating time to be a business lawyer because the old tried and trusted approaches have to be revisited. It's a time for innovation and for bringing sophisticated legal solutions to business problems – which is what we as a firm are all about," he told Ulster Business.
"Clients are in unique and unprecedented circumstances. They have an increased demand for quality of advice and speed of response."
Yarr is clearly proud to be leading a law firm which has 71 partners, a total staff of 540, headquarters in Dublin and offices in Belfast, London and New York. As Managing Partner he says it is his job to provide leadership and strategic direction for the firm, but because it is collectively owned by its partners, collaboration and cooperation are important.
After attending RBAI in Belfast and studying law at Dundee University, Yarr trained and qualified as a solicitor in Northern Ireland. He joined A&L Goodbody in Dublin in 1997 where he specialises in M&A, equity capital markets and private equity. He was head of A&L Goodbody's London office from 2003-2009 and was also involved in establishing the firm's Belfast office in 2007.
The firm had been doing business in Northern Ireland for years and he says opening the Belfast office, headed up by Peter Stafford, was a natural next step.
"Our clients operate on an all island basis. That's the way the financial institutions see it, the way most of the large corporates see it. Our approach therefore is to be best in class - both north and south. As far as someone sitting in an investment bank in New York or a magic circle law firm in London is concerned, if a deal is happening in Dublin or Belfast, our experience is that they want a firm that can deliver quality and timely advice north or south of the border," he said.
"We are delighted with how the Belfast office has gone from strength to strength in tricky economic times and of the team we have built. Challenging economic times tend to result in a flight to quality and our Belfast office is benefiting from this," he added.
"There have been many changes since I left in the mid-1990s, from the success of many indigenous companies to how the international business community sees Northern Ireland as a good place to do business. What hasn't changed is the quality of the people and the way in which the Northern Ireland business community strives to achieve economic success notwithstanding economic and political challenges," he said.
"2011 is going to continue to provide challenges and opportunities for our clients. We will develop and adapt our business model accordingly. Specifically in Northern Ireland we aim to further increase our market share and deliver the highest quality of service and innovation available in Northern Ireland."
The firm has also recently announced that it will relaunch its New York office in early 2011.
Having spent time in A&L's London office Yarr has not only built relationships with peers and clients internationally, but also has a rounded perspective of how other firms are run in different jurisdictions.
He believes that despite the recent economic troubles, the island of Ireland remains attractive to investors from other countries.
"There is no doubt that Ireland has attracted significant attention, however we are not on our own and believe that there are reasons to be positive and optimistic. I have just returned from visiting our clients and contacts in London and New York. They have been telling me that notwithstanding challenges, they see Ireland as a good place for them to do business. There are some great international businesses with operations north and south of the border – such as Bombardier, Citi, Google, Microsoft," he said.
Yarr notes that A&L Goodbody has acted for more than 600 US Corporations in Ireland across a full range of industry sectors such as General Electric, Apple, IBM, Oracle, Pfizer, Bayer, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
"We all know of the economic challenges that we face north and south in 2011. Multinational companies, and the flow of international investment and finance are central to Ireland's economic wellbeing, therefore building the reputation of Ireland within the international business community as a good and safe place to do business is important," he said.
"There is now a sense for the first time in a while that we will at least have a framework that everyone understands within which to play and from which to move on. 2011 will see elections north and south of the border. Once those are out of the way in Dublin and in Stormont there will be an opportunity to move the political agenda forward in a very positive way."
In terms of what the legal sector can expect in 2011 he believes that developments in M&A, the financial services sector, commercial restructuring, insolvency and commercial litigation will continue to drive a large volume of work.
"I think we will see more corporate activity along a similar vein to the past six months of 2010 – transactions not just from distressed situations, but for example to alleviate debt and financing challenges and enabling companies to focus on core competencies. The financial services, energy and technology sectors in particular will continue to see this," he said.
"Don't be surprised to see more big ticket M&A coming through as the panic wanes, a more strategic focus comes to bear and liquidity returns to the market."