Record numbers join Irish register of solicitors

More and more solicitors are seeking admission to the register of Irish solicitors, according to figures released by the Law Society of Ireland.

The Irish Times reported that the surge in UK-based lawyers applying to join the Irish roll of solicitors has reached record levels, thought to be driven by Brexit. Lawyer’s fear that the UK’s exit from the European Union mean they might lose international business and legal protections.

More than 1,200 lawyers have gained or are seeking admission in 2019. As of 26 March, 630 applications being processed were from English and Welsh solicitors wanting admission to the register of Irish solicitors. Some 605 solicitors in England and Wales have already been admitted to the roll.

14 percent of solicitors

Solicitors based in the UK now make up more than 14 percent of all the solicitors on the Irish roll, which totals 19,315 and includes 2,770 based in Britain. Since the referendum where the UK voted to leave the EU, 833 solicitors from the UK joined the register in 2016, 576 were admitted in 2017 and 737 in 2018.

Most of them are not practising in Ireland, but many of them work in areas such as EU and competition law and are worried that Brexit may affect their legal status and ability to practice. To be able to argue before the Court of Justice of the EU, a UK-based solicitor might need to be registered in the EU.

Such status could also be required for maintaining legal privilege in EU investigations and competition or trade law cases.

‘Brexit refugees’

Ken Murphy, the director general of the Law Society in Ireland, said the Society jokingly called the solicitors joining up ‘Brexit refugees’, though in reality they were not of course based in Ireland. Fewer than 250 solicitors based in England and Wales had taken out certificates to practice in the country.

Following Brexit, Ireland will be the only full common law system in the EU and the only English speaking country. The Irish legal profession views this as an opportunity to expand and grow.

The Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Attorney General Séamus Woulfe visited the United States last month to launch a Government-backed initiative which will promote Ireland as a legal centre post Brexit.

And the uncertainty about the enforceability of UK court judgements in the EU when or if the UK leaves could make Irish courts more attractive to international litigants.

Mr Murphy added were looking to see if work could be diverted from London, and the Irish legal profession wanted to be in that space should that happen.


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