Staff at the Law Society of Ireland dealing with applications to practice in the still-European Union country have been rather busy lately.
The Society has revealed to the New Zealand Law Society that 274 applications have been processed in the 2019 calendar year to 11 February with a further 472 applications from English and Welsh solicitors being dealt with.
Since the 2016 vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, more than 2,000 lawyers from Great Britain have successfully applied to practice in the Republic of Ireland. In 2016 there were 806 alone, and in 2018 there were 688. Brexit is due to take place at the end of March 2019.
Those lawyers are not actually moving to Dublin or anywhere in the 26 counties: the Society’s Director-General Ken Murphy says specialist EU and competition law practitioners are making the applications to protect their status in their chosen field, post-Brexit.
Mr Murphy notes, in an article in the December issue of the Society’s Gazette magazine (“Brexit refugee solicitors creating their own ‘backstop’,”), that of the 18,461 lawyers now enrolled in Ireland, more than 11% are lawyers from England and Wales who have enrolled in the past two-and-a-half years. Previously, the Society would receive about 50 applications per year.
The right to a cross-border practising certificate is enshrined in European law, in the EU’s Recognition of Higher Education Diplomas Directive of 1989. Irish lawyers can also benefit from the directive with a British practising certificate.
Mr Murphy also notes that some larger firms are making numerous applications, and in 2018 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer topped the list with 69. The previous year it made 130 applications, two fewer than Eversheds Sutherland.