The Law Society of Ireland’s director general Ken Murphy has played down the significance of a number of British solicitors taking out licences allowing them to practise law in the Republic since the UK’s Brexit vote.
The UK’s decision in June 2016 to leave the EU prompted speculation that a large numbers of professionals such as lawyers would decamp from London to other centres, including Dublin, to continue serving clients that remain in the bloc.
However, while more than 1,300 British lawyers had signed up on the Irish Roll of Solicitors by November 2017, only about one-fifth of that number had taken out practising certificates entitling them to sell legal services in the Republic.
Figures published in the Law Society Gazette show that London firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer accounted for 86 of those who have taken out practising certificates, which was the largest number. Hogan Lovells followed with 22 and Pinsent Masons was third with 16.
Open an office
Mr Murphy pointed out that of all the firms that have taken out certificates, just Pinsent Masons is planning to open an office in the Republic. He said the firm had intended doing this long before the Brexit vote.
The gazette’s numbers cover 16 UK firms where three or more solicitors have taken out the certificates, not those with one or two.
The total number of lawyers working for those firms that now have the certificates is 182.
Mr Murphy explained that most British solicitors seeking entry to the Irish roll are doing so to protect their status as EU lawyers.
“Their future-status concerns relate to such issues as rights of audience in the EU courts and, in particular, the entitlement of their clients to legal privilege in EU investigations,” he said.
Meanwhile, A&L Goodbody has emerged as the Republic’s biggest law practice with 293 solicitors.
It added 18 solicitors with practising certificates to its payroll in 2017, leaving rival Arthur Cox, with which it has shared the top spot for the past few years, in second place.
Arthur Cox actually cut its number of practitioners by one to 274. Matheson was number three with 268 solicitors. McCann Fitzgerald, William Fry and Mason Hayes Curran filled the next three places.
Philip Lee was among the fastest-growing firms, adding six solicitors last year to grow its numbers to 44, moving up two places to number 18.
The number of practising certificates that the Law Society issued last year grew 363 to 10,098, an increase of 3.5 per cent. Mr Murphy noted that this increase was in line with economic growth.