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Investment needed for our courts if lawyers are to cash in


Support: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan declared support for plan. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Support: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan declared support for plan. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

Damien Eagers / INM

Support: Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan declared support for plan. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

The Government's support of a plan aimed at enticing legal work to Ireland from the UK will need to be backed up with significant investment in the courts system.

The initiative, which aims to capitalise on uncertainty over the future enforceability of UK court judgments, is set to form a key plank of the Government's Brexit strategy.

It will involve IDA Ireland and other bodies promoting Ireland as a location for resolving international legal disputes. If successful, the plan could create thousands of jobs.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday announced the Government will support the plan, which was put together by the Bar of Ireland, the Law Society and other legal industry organisations.

However, it is not yet known how much State investment will be involved.

It is clear from the plan that significant expenditure will be needed to modernise and improve aspects of the legal system.

Key measures called for include increased use of technology in the courts, significantly increasing resources available to judges and the Courts Service, and increasing funding for regulatory bodies.

Following the announcement, the Department of Justice told the Irish Independent the plan had not been costed beyond potential gains in legal services business that could accrue to Ireland post-Brexit.

It said an implementation group due to be appointed shortly would analyse the potential cost implications.

A number of countries are eyeing up business which may leave the UK.

But Ireland is seen as having a number of advantages due to its common law system and use of the English language.

However, any gains for Ireland are likely to be hard won amid indications top London law firms will fight hard to retain their share of the international legal services market.

Currently the UK is believed to account for around 20pc of all legal services fee revenue within the EU and English law is used for commercial contracts around the world.

Since 2010, around 80pc of all Commercial Court cases in London each year involve at least one foreign party, while all parties are foreign in at least 50pc of all cases.

It is thought much of this work could end up in other jurisdictions after Brexit due to the likelihood that UK judgments may not be easily enforced in EU member states.

Mr Flanagan described the initiative as "a timely means of positively exploiting the competitive advantages of our courts and legal systems".

The chairman of the Bar Council, Micheál P O'Higgins SC, said there had already been an uptake in international businesses seeking to make Ireland their European base. He said it was prudent to have a coordinated approach across all sectors to ensure Ireland capitalises in whatever way it can.

"The UK's departure from the EU creates a real opportunity for Ireland, not only for legal services but also for the wider economy.

"We have estimated that even a 1pc movement of legal services from the UK to Ireland could add between 1,100 and 1,600 jobs to the Irish economy in a year," he said.

Irish Independent