The Irish patent profession is heavily Dublin-centric, so there was a gap in the market to establish an office to take advantage of the significant innovation culture in Galway. Clearly, we needed to open an office in an EU territory to solve the ‘Brexit problem’ and could quite easily have done the minimum.
However, we took the decision to create a new practice where we could build up a local clientele in an extremely exciting area which was not as well served by existing firms as might be necessary. We saw a significant business opportunity to deploy our expertise and capitalise upon the cutting-edge research and development environment. Many multinational businesses have established research and manufacturing facilities in Galway and there is widespread expertise in the IT and MedTech sectors. In fact, Galway is in the top five of the world’s MedTech development hubs which is remarkable given the size of the city itself. There is a hugely significant ecosystem in place where multinational companies, their associated support networks and consultancies are thriving all along the Atlantic seaboard of Ireland. It is a fantastic environment to be working in and our investment in Galway has certainly been rewarded.
Having been the third fee earner to join Keltie in 1989 and building it to where we are now, seeing it grow and develop was hugely rewarding. However, to be given the opportunity to do the same again in Galway is a great privilege and something for which I feel very grateful.
Whilst it is true that the Brexit referendum expedited the decision to open the Galway office, it has always been part of Keltie’s growth and expansion plans. Our research and local knowledge gave us the background to know we were making a strong decision. Galway was always a genuine destination for a new office as we had seen other firms with European offices reaping the rewards of having Europe-based offices even before the UK left the EU. We knew there would be a period of uncertainty, with firms having to act quickly to either reposition existing, or establish new offices outside of the UK in order to continue to act for clients in European matters.
People often comment that we had incredible foresight in opening the Galway office but in fact it was the knowledge that if the UK voted to leave the EU, there would be uncertainty and we could and should take steps to alleviate that uncertainty for our clients.
For us, having a quick and genuine remedy to Brexit was very important as it gave our clients an immediate certainty that come what may, we would be able to look after them and their intellectual property portfolios. We had done all the preparatory work so we were able to react within six weeks of the vote and open the doors to the new office.
Having opened the Galway office, we are now authorised to act before the Intellectual Property Office of Ireland, meaning we can work on matters originating from Irish clients, but also work involving Ireland from associates overseas. We are also able to assist associates based abroad with contentious matters involving Ireland. Keltie is now effectively a ‘one-stop-shop’ for clients with interests in the UK and Ireland as we are now an Anglo-Irish firm, but post-Brexit it will be necessary to protect trade marks especially in both the UK and EU. The Galway office means that we have a presence in both territories and give us an advantage - our clients will not need a separate firm for their European work, as we will continue to offer both UK and EU representation once the transition period has concluded. Many of our clients have interest in both the UK and Ireland, so the fact we are able to serve both locations within the firm is highly appealing.
Whilst we have seen some reaction from Dublin-based firms and others expand to provincial areas of Ireland, we remain the only firm operating in Galway. We continue to build our full-service team, offering clients the full range of our expertise. We have worked very hard on our systems, processes and approach to ensure that for our clients, it is ‘business as usual’.
We have never seen ourselves as a traditional law firm and we have not muscled our way into Galway as the next office in an expansion programme, merely there to show a presence in the EU. We have and continue to build personal bonds with new and existing clients, based upon our founding ethos that long term investment in relationships is everything. We have simply transposed our operating style from our UK offices where we meet people, build future trust and work together to deliver real value and that has meant we have fitted well with the way things are done in Galway.
The profession has adapted well to the changes required by the Brexit agreement, with many of the top firms already having taken measures to continue representation on EU matters by either leveraging existing office locations, or opening new ones. The profession has always been regarded as ‘European’ but Brexit has meant physical steps have been taken in order to secure a presence within the EU.
As a result of opening the Galway office, we are now offering a wider range of services because we are in countries we have not been in previously. One area where you will see the profession change is with those firms which are not economically large enough to open a new overseas office outsourcing or subcontracting work to firms with an EU presence so that their EU IPO practice is maintained.
18.02.2020Azhar Sadique on a career in IP and the future challenges for the profession.
Advice for young people looking to begin a career in intellectual property.