Brexit fears drive City lawyers to seek admission in Ireland

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society
Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society

A record number of UK solicitors will have been admitted to practice in Ireland in the first six months of 2016 due to Brexit fears, the Law Society of Ireland has said.

The total number – 186 – is more than three times the total at this stage last year, when the number was less than fifty.

According to the Society, the “vast majority” of UK solicitors admitted to practice in Ireland this year are from large London-based firms who cited the UK’s possible exit from the EU as their primary reason for seeking admission in Ireland.

They include lawyers from City giants Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Slaughter and May and Hogan Lovells.

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, said: “This is by far the largest number of transfers of solicitors to Ireland from the UK in any given year, and we’re only halfway through the year.

“Of the EU member states, Ireland is the legal jurisdiction most equivalent to the UK. We are both English-speaking, both common law jurisdictions and our legal institutions are much the same.

“This makes Ireland the destination of choice for solicitors in England, in particular, who are concerned about the possibility of the UK voting to leave the EU.

“The right to argue before EU tribunals such as the Court of Justice of the European Union is only afforded to lawyers qualified in an EU state.

“It is our understanding that the majority of the solicitors who are completing this process will continue to practice in London or Brussels and do not intend to set up a physical practice in Ireland.

“While no one knows what agreements will be in place should the UK vote to leave the EU, some UK firms are making contingency plans now.

“The majority of solicitors that are transferring are from large London-headquartered firms including at least one of the so-called ‘Magic Circle’ firms, one of the ten largest law firms in the world. Many of these solicitors specialise in EU and competition law.

“There are several dozen applications that are still being processed so the number of transferring solicitors from the UK is expected to increase further before the referendum on 23 June. Depending on the result of the referendum, these applications may continue to rise.”

The process by which foreign qualified lawyers may apply to go on the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland is outlined on the Law Society’s website.

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