Sunday 18 March 2018

Post-Brexit surge in number of UK lawyers applying to Irish roll

The Four Courts Building in Dublin could soon see hundreds of English lawyers working within its doors
The Four Courts Building in Dublin could soon see hundreds of English lawyers working within its doors
Michael Cogley

Michael Cogley

The number of lawyers from England and Wales admitted to the Irish roll of solicitors has surged by nearly 10 times so far this year in reaction to the Brexit vote which could lead to a cash bonanza for the Law Society of Ireland. On average the number of lawyers applying to work here ranges between 50 and 100 per year, however, that number has rocketed to 618 so far this year with a further 93 applications currently being processed, according to the Law Society of Ireland.

A further 23 solicitors from Northern Ireland have also been added to the roll.

Solicitors who qualified in England, Wales or Northern Ireland are allowed to undergo a process that allows them to practise here. Similarly solicitors who have qualified here can transfer to the rolls of solicitors in Northern Ireland, England, and Wales.

So far just over a sixth of lawyers that have been added to the roll have been granted a practising certificate, which is required to practise law in Ireland.

Practising certificates cost €2,035 per year for lawyers who have been qualified for less than three years and €2,335 for those who have been qualified for more than three years.

The Law Society of Ireland looks set to receive a major financial boost should the number of those being granted a practising certificate rise at the same pace as those being added to the solicitor roll. The society will net at least an additional €189,255 per year from this year's additions. However, should the remaining solicitors added to the roll elect to practice here, the society could end up netting an extra €1.4m annually.

Law Society of Ireland director general Ken Murphy told the Sunday Independent that the rise in applications was a direct result of the UK's decision to leave the European Union.

"It's completely a Brexit-triggered event that's taking place now and the solicitors that are doing this and coming on the roll are doing this like cautious lawyers," he said.

One of the biggest law firms in the UK has transferred some of its solicitors from its anti-trust, competition and trade law teams across as a precautionary measure.

Murphy added: "The Law Society of Ireland has had informal discussions with some of the major international law firms whose England and Wales-qualified solicitors have in recent months been taking out an additional qualification by seeking and gaining admittance to the roll of solicitors in Ireland. This, of course, is all being done in anticipation of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union."

The majority of lawyers being added to the roll are primarily from London-headquartered companies, with a number of the coming from the Magic Circle.

The Magic Circle refers to the five leading law firms in the UK and is made up of Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, and Slaughter and May.

"In a meeting in London in July 2016 with the global managing partner and other leaders of one of the Magic Circle firms, the president and director general of the Law Society of Ireland were told that the solicitors transferring to the roll in Ireland typically were members of the firm's anti-trust, competition and trade law teams based in the firm's London and Brussels offices," Murphy said.

Despite the major increase in application numbers, it remains unlikely that these lawyers will actually set up a practice here. It is probable they are instead getting on the Irish roll of solicitors as a precautionary measure.

English, Welsh and NI lawyers are not obliged to pass any subject of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test, unlike those from other countries. But they have to pay a €300 fee per application to cover the administrative cost of the process.

Sunday Indo Business

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