Brexit-driven surge in UK solicitors joining Irish roll hits record

One in seven solicitors on 19,000-strong Irish register are English and Welsh lawyers

Books in the Law Library in the Four Courts, Dublin. Photograph: David Sleator

Books in the Law Library in the Four Courts, Dublin. Photograph: David Sleator

 

The Brexit-inspired surge in UK-based lawyers joining the Irish roll of solicitors has reached record levels as more than 1,200 have gained or are seeking admission this year alone.

The number of solicitors looking to join the Irish roll in anticipation of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has increased as British-based lawyers fear losing international business and legal protections after Brexit.

Figures released by the Law Society of Ireland show that as of March 26th, there were 630 applications being processed from English and Welsh solicitors seeking admissions to the register of Irish solicitors.

This is in addition to the 605 solicitors in England and Wales already admitted on to the roll this year.

UK-based solicitors now represent more than 14 per cent of all solicitors on the Irish roll. There are 2,770 British-based solicitors, the vast majority from England and Wales, among the 19,315 solicitors on the Irish register.

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Some 737 solicitors from the UK joined the roll in 2018 after 576 were admitted in 2017 and 833 in 2016.

The vast majority of the newly registered solicitors are not actually practising in Ireland but are working in areas of law such as EU and competition law where they are concerned Brexit may affect their legal status.

‘Brexit refugees’

UK-based solicitors may need to be registered within the EU to be able to argue before the Court of Justice of the EU after Brexit or to maintain legal privilege in EU investigations and competition or trade law cases.

“Brexit refugees, we jokingly call them, but of course they are not actually here,” said Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society. “They are simply people who have come on the roll. They are still at their desks in London or Luxembourg.”

Less than 250 solicitors based in England and Wales have taken out a certificate to practise in Ireland, he said.

The Irish legal profession sees an opportunity to grow business given that after Brexit, Ireland will be the only full common law system in the EU and the only English-speaking country in the economic and political bloc.

Senior legal figures including the Chief Justice Frank Clarke and Attorney General Séamus Woulfe visited the United States last month to launch a Government-backed initiative to promote Ireland as a legal centre after Brexit.

Uncertainty around the enforceability of UK court judgments in the EU after Brexit could make the Irish courts attractive to international litigants seeking the resolution of disputes.

“People are looking to see if there is work that can be diverted from London and we want to be in that space,” said Mr Murphy, on competition from other EU states for Brexit-related legal business leaving London.

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