Saturday 18 November 2017

Lack of talented solicitors a worry for smaller firms

Dublin's High Court
Dublin's High Court

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

IRELAND could face a shortage of solicitor "talent" in the coming years according to a survey of the country's leading law firms.

Staff levels have increased in some 56pc of law firms quizzed in the second annual Smith and Williamson survey of Ireland's law firms, with almost one-third of firms expected to bring in more trainees in the coming year.

The solicitor profession is reeling from the collapse of conveyance work, once the staple of many legal practices during the boom years.

Up to 1,300 practising solicitors are currently unemployed.

But with growth of GDP expected for 2014 and signs of recovery in the property market -- particularly in the Dublin region -- law firms fear there could be a shortage of legal know-how.

"It is anticipated that there will be a shortage of talent in the coming years, "said Paul Wyse, managing partner of Smith and Williamson (Ireland), who led the legal survey.

"This is due to the improving market, the large numbers who have left the profession and current lower levels of entry to the profession".

Ireland's magic circle law firms are particularly optimistic about recruitment.

NERVOUS

In the last year 94pc of the top 20 firms increased their overall levels of staff. This compares to just 25pc of mid-tier and smaller firms.

The Smith and Williamson survey includes responses from managing and senior partners in 16 of the top 20 Irish law firms, 16 mid-tier firms and 69 small firms.

The survey states that banks "continue to be nervous" about funding legal firms, especially smaller ones.

Downward pressure on fees is the biggest challenge facing all firms, with increased tendering for State work and most firms agreeing to more fixed fees for assignments to secure work.

"The pressure on fees continues unabated in the sector," said Mr Wyse, adding that managing cash flow is an issue of major concern for most mid-tier and small firms.

The Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, has a dedicated unit to deal with rising unemployment amongst solicitors.

Solicitor John Shaw, the newly-elected president of the Law Society, has stated that survival is the main challenge facing many solicitors' practices throughout the country.

There are almost 9,000 solicitors holding practising certificates in Ireland.

The number of trainees starting their training contracts with the society, 353, fell this year compared to 2012 when there were 392 trainees.

Irish Independent

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