England and Wales law society unhappy with certificate decision

Irish practising certificates to require solicitors to work from establishment based here

Thousands of England and Wales-qualified solicitors not based in Ireland have bought Irish practising certificates for about €2,600.

Thousands of England and Wales-qualified solicitors not based in Ireland have bought Irish practising certificates for about €2,600.

 

The Law Society of England and Wales has said a decision by its Irish counterpart in relation to practising certificates and Brexit will come as a “huge disappointment”.

As of next year, Irish practising certificates will only be issued to solicitors who qualified in England and Wales if they work from an establishment based here.

Thousands of England and Wales-qualified solicitors who are not based here have bought Irish practising certificates, which cost approximately €2,600 each and are issued annually, in the period since the Brexit referendum.

The certificates last for a calendar year, and the new policy comes into effect from January 1st, the same date that the UK’s post-Brexit transition period comes to an end.

Brexit context

The Irish society, which has never said its certificates protect EU practising rights, said it had conducted a review that had looked at the regulatory framework for issuing the certificates to lawyers based outside Ireland.

The review “was aimed at realigning the framework in the light of Brexit, and ensuring that it was legally robust”.

The practice of issuing practising certificates to solicitors outside Ireland “may create the erroneous impression that the society permits practice pursuant to the Irish practising certificate outside Ireland”, the society said.

The Law Society of England and Wales said the change means thousands of England and Wales-qualified solicitors who invested in Irish practising certificates to protect their EU practising rights “appear to have wasted their money”.

‘Very disappointing’

“To hear about this development through a release from the Law Society of Ireland’s website is very disappointing,” said David Greene, president of the Law Society of England and Wales.

“We would have expected to learn of any proposed changes in advance and formally.”

There has been some concern in Dublin that the Irish certificates could become a “flag of convenience” in the EU, post-Brexit, for solicitors who qualified in England and Wales, and were still based in that legal jurisdiction.

Irish-qualified solicitors who want to practise as a registered European lawyer in another EU country will be issued with alternative certification attesting to their registration or enrolment as a solicitor, instead of a practising certificate, the society said.

The change announced this week does not affect “solicitors qualified and practising in both Northern Ireland and Ireland”, the Law Society of Ireland said.