Number of practising solicitors on the rise, despite downturn


THE NUMBER of practising solicitors increased last year, despite the growing unemployment in the profession.

The past decade has seen a steady increase in the number of solicitors registered with the Law Society, with 8,278 getting practising certificates in 2002 to 13,440 last year. The rate of increase has slowed, however. There was a fall of six in the number of practising certificates issued in 2009. The number increased by 110 in 2010 and by 238 last year, but this compared with increases of 460 and 355 respectively in 2007 and 2008.

These figures do not show how many solicitors are leaving the profession through retirement or who hold practising certificates but are not working. The number of unemployed solicitors is estimated by the Law Society to be about 1,200.

Meanwhile, the number of barristers leaving the Law Library is rising. According to the Bar Council 77 left in the legal year from October 2009 to October 2010, 113 left the following year and 68 in the five months up to February last.

The Irish Timeshas been informed by a number of barristers that it is not necessary to be a member of the Law Library to practise, so these figures do not necessarily reflect a drop in the number of practising barristers.

While regulation of the solicitors’ profession is laid down in legislation, this is not the case with barristers, who are called to the Bar by the Chief Justice following receipt of the BL degree from the King’s Inns. Only the King’s Inns can disqualify a barrister from practising, though this normally follows a disciplinary process undertaken by the Bar Council.

This dual system of regulation, where only the King’s Inns has the power to disbar a barrister, but where the code of conduct is that laid down by the Bar Council, will end if the Legal Services Regulation Bill is passed unamended and all lawyers are required to register with a central authority.