Journal criticises jobs bar in AG's office


THE Attorney General's office is engaged in "restrictive practices" by allowing only barristers to apply for the post of legal assistant, according to an editorial in the Law Society's Gazette, which represents solicitors.

The editorial says the Government should allow both branches of the legal profession to apply for the posts.

In a recent advertisement, the AG's office called for applications from barristers for legal assistant's posts. There are 19 such positions in the office. The advertisement said candidates must have practised as barristers for between four and seven years.

"Attorneys General in the past shave sought to justify this insidious discrimination against one branch of the legal profession on the grounds that, to understand how law operates in practice, one must have practised at the Bar," the article says.

"Perhaps there are some who will find that excuse convincing. We certainly do not. It is now time that this matter was addressed by the Government. We believe all restrictive practices that seek to exclude one branch of the profession from eligibility for appointment to legal positions in the State - including appointment as judges - must now be ended."

A Government spokesman said the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Mr Jim Higgins, made a statement last month in a Dail adjournment debate on the issue of appointments to the post of legal assistant.

In it, he said legal assistants were concerned with specialist advisory work and advising on the conduct of litigation.

"In the Attorney General's view, these were matters where the experience of having been a practising barrister is more material than that of having been a practising solicitor," he said.

Of the 123 lawyer positions under the direction of the Attorney General, 93 in the Chief State Solicitor's Office are confined to solicitors. Twelve positions in the Office of the Parliamentary Draftsman are open to barristers and solicitors. The Attorney General is a barrister.