Private sector salary rise poses challenge to public legal services

Eileen Creedon
Chief State Solicitor Eileen Creedon

Public legal services in Ireland are under “serious threat” of losing specialist knowledge because new solicitors are being offered higher salaries in the private sector.

Chief State Solicitor Eileen Creedon and DPP deputy director Barry Donoghue warned the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that the issue is likely to become even more significant in the next few years.

Ms Creedon told TDs: “With the economy picking up, there are more attractive financial opportunities in the private sector.

“In 2014, eight solicitors resigned with a further 14 resigning in 2015. It has proved difficult to attract replacements.

“I am currently discussing this matter, which is posing a significant risk to the office, with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.”

In 2014, fees to counsel made up 36 per cent of expenditure by the Office of the Chief State Solicitor, according to documents submitted to the committee.

Mr Donoghue said it was “becoming increasingly difficult for the public service, because of its relatively low starting salaries for lawyers, to attract and retain the calibre of legal staff required”.

He added: “It will create real problems in both maintaining standards and may also adversely impact on our ability to deal with all the prosecution work requiring attention.”

The Irish Independent reports that starting salaries for Irish solicitors in the private sector are between €55,000 and €65,000.

The salary challenge coincides with an increasing workload for the DPP, which received a record 14,000 new prosecution files in 2014.

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