Tuesday 22 August 2017

Irish law firms may have to study international trade law to maintain competitive advantage post-Brexit - Law Society of Ireland President

Stuart Gilhooly pictured at Blackhall place. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Stuart Gilhooly pictured at Blackhall place. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Irish law firms may have to develop competence in international trade law, cross border regulation and knowledge of the post-Brexit UK regime to maintain a competitive advantage, the President of the Law Society of Ireland has said.

Stuart Gilhooly told the International Bar Association conference in Belfast that the strategic advantage of Ireland as one of the main common law jurisdictions with the European Union can’t be underestimated in the context of Brexit.

He confirmed top UK law firms Pinsent Masons and DLA Piper are interested in coming to Dublin to open “reasonably substantial branch offices”.

“Although Brexit wasn’t their original catalyst, it is the driving force behind their current interest in doing so this year, if possible,” Mr Gilhooly said.

“If others have similar plans, they are keeping their cards close to their chest.”

He also said more than 1,100 lawyers from the UK have joined the roll of Irish solicitors, but less than a quarter have taken out practising certificates.

“As Brexit divorce draws closer, it is likely that we will see more joining the roll and a considerably higher percentage taking out practising certificates in order to guard against possible regulatory change.”

As the economy recovers, he said, so to does the demand for legal practitioners.

Demand for talent is high, and will be higher with Pinsent Masons and DLA Piper entering the market, he added, saying the competition for associate level talent is likely to heighten.

“Arguable more a post Brexit impact, Irish law firms may need to develop a competence on international trade law, cross border regulation and a knowledge of the post Brexit UK regime,” he said.

“As clients continue to trade to and through the UK, or establish families across these islands, firms that do not master these areas will be at a competitive disadvantage.”

“In short: firms will have to upskill and think smart in relation to Brexit affairs”

Mr Gilhooly said the Law Society must improve its collaboration with the state’s trade and enterprise agencies by reiterating the advantages and clarity of dispute resolution norms that exist within the common law framework, continue to educate and inform policy makers and assess the future needs of the legal sector and recalibrate its approach to training.

“It may well be that we will be the UK’s only EU friend in the next two years but we must not be swayed by the potential animosity of some other EU countries,” Mr Gilhooly said.

“Everyone will have their own boat to paddle but the Irish Law Society needs to guide its ship into less choppy waters with the UK in its slipstream.”

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