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A Q&A Conversation with Sam Saarsteiner

April 25, 2022

On May 17, Dublin Partner Sam Saarsteiner will participate in a global panel with Clark Hill Members Vanessa Kelly and Maria Dwyer to discuss employment solutions in the retail and hospitality industries. 

Saarsteiner recently previewed that webinar in addition to discussing his practice and the differences and similarities in the Irish and American legal systems. Registration information for the May 17 webinar is found here

Let’s start with a personal anecdote, what was your inspiration for pursuing a career in the law?

I have always been attracted to the power of language when deployed intelligently. That and the ability to have an influence on the outcome of disputes across a wide range of industries and to take on the responsibility that comes with the relationship of trust and confidence we are required to engender with our clients, make for a winning combination. That and the 1980s show “Matlock,” perhaps minus the cream suits.

Your practice seems to encompass a couple of areas beyond what might be described as pure commercial litigation. For example, you are a member of Clark Hill’s data and cybersecurity business unit, as well as the Blockchain & Cryptocurrency task force and the Cannabis industry team. How did you decide on these areas and are there similarities between these potentially unrelated areas and how do you approach the cases arising?

A huge part of Clark Hill’s appeal for me is the firm’s proactivity in mobilizing into newer areas of law. Our ability as a firm, located across North America, Ireland, and Mexico to leverage that knowledge and offer a truly seamless transatlantic service to our clients in exciting new areas is a huge plus and offers an incomparable experience for my day to day role. I am investing my time in these areas as they are on significant growth trajectories and as the gateway to Europe, our presence in Ireland is strategically important for the firm and for our clients. The firm has invested in my approach, for example by supporting me in obtaining my CIPP/e qualification in data protection in 2021. 

In terms of approach, I would look to bring the same long-term scenario analysis, risk mitigation, and unconventional thinking as I would to any commercial litigation matter. My technical know-how is of huge value for cybersecurity work in particular. In my experience, the overlap would be based on these matters all encompassing a series of astute decisions to optimise my client’s position.

You’re now part of a firm based largely in the U.S., what have you learned about the American legal system that you weren’t aware of previously? And on the opposite side, what have you helped your American peers learn about the Irish/European practice of law?

Certainly, I would have had a broad understanding of the US legal system, but the federal v. state distinction is something I would now more keenly appreciate. This is particularly so in data protection law and cannabis law where the state-by-state approach results in a patchwork quilt of laws across the U.S. That said, and particularly in terms of litigation strategies and tactics, there is far more in common than I originally expected. Time and time again in conversations with my litigation colleagues in the US, I come across very similar litigation tools being deployed as I would expect in Ireland.

Culturally, how do Ireland and the U.S. differ in their approaches to the legal system?

Application and enforcement. Compared to the U.S., Irish law tends in many areas to depart from the black and white of the legislation and be perhaps overly grounded in custom and practice. Some Court decisions can in isolation be seen as being counterintuitive and frustrating for clients to understand, but in the bigger picture, they work. That can present a challenge in terms of being able to predict an outcome for a client; it’s a form of grey area in which we strive to let our experience enable us to meet that challenge.

Let’s discuss your upcoming webinar on May 17, can you preview what attendees can expect to learn during the event? While preparing with your fellow presenters, what are some similar issues that you all have been working to solve despite being from different geographic areas?

Our focus is going to be on offering practical advices and knowledge formed on the back of our direct and indirect experiences in the current market. My own employment law practice has been wide ranging over the last two to three years arising from different clients’ approaches to their workforce, ranging from remote working, right-sizing, and rapid expansions. The industries forming the focus of the webinar – retail, food and beverage, and hospitality – are easily among the most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Attracting and retaining the best talent is the new buzz-phrase but it is all the more challenging against the background of increased legislative responses to the clamouring for an improved work/life balance when the hours of those industries are inherently unpredictable and unsocial. Creative solutions and fresh approaches are the order of the day.

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