Wednesday 21 November 2018

Fears recede on Brexodus threat to legal firms

Massive influx of UK lawyers has not materialised, writes Group Business Editor Dearbhail McDonald

The Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, registered more than 800 English and Welsh solicitors last year, most transferring in the weeks and months following the June 2016 poll. Photo: Stock Image
The Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, registered more than 800 English and Welsh solicitors last year, most transferring in the weeks and months following the June 2016 poll. Photo: Stock Image
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

They registered in their hundreds, terrifying Ireland's 'magic circle' commercial law firms. But fears of an invasion of British lawyers in the wake of Brexit have subsided according to new data from The Law Society.

The Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, registered more than 800 English and Welsh solicitors last year, most transferring in the weeks and months following the June 2016 poll.

However, in the year to November 21, 2017, the figure was 501 and the number of 2017 transferees will be of the order of 30pc less than that in 2016.

The Brexit poll prompted concerns among leading Dublin commercial law firms that London-based competitors would transfer large numbers of solicitors here as a prelude to transferring large portions of their business to Dublin to maintain a foothold in the EU.

However only one firm so far, Pinsent Masons LLP, which registered 15 solicitors this year, has opened a Dublin office. And of the 1,317 solicitors that have transferred from England and Wales, only 231 - many working in US headquartered firms operating in London - have secured practising certificates.

"There is a difference between rumour and reality," said Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society which says it is solicitors from primarily EU competition and trade law practices in English and Welsh firms who have undertaken the administrative process of entering their names on the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland.

"Despite the post-Brexit vote rumours, the opening of the Pinsent Mason office is all that has occurred to date," he said, adding that the qualifying term 'to date' has to be used at all times when talking about Brexit.

Murphy said that while very large numbers of solicitors in England and Wales had taken out a second qualification by applying to join the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland, they were not doing this for the purpose of establishing practices here.

"Their motivation is to maximise their status as EU law practitioners when, in the future Britain will no longer be a member state," said Murphy. "Their future status concerns relate to such issues as rights of audience in the EU courts and, in particular, the entitlement of their clients to legal privilege in EU investigations."

There are 17,364 solicitors registered on the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland. However, only 10,464 have practising certificates, legally required for practice, which cost up to €2,190 a year.

Sunday Indo Business

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