UK solicitors are creating their own 'backstop' by moving to Ireland in spirit rather than body, and the Law Society of Ireland director general says it is a booming economy that is driving the legal market.
Boom times for profession
Reports about Brexiting firms moving to Ireland may be exaggerated, though a 'backstop' strategy means solicitors are getting practice certificates in Ireland as a precautionary measure. In an exclusive interview with Global Legal Post, Law Society of Ireland director general Ken Murphy explained in respect to firms taking a physical presence, they are few and ‘there is no necessary connection to Brexit.’ He said firms moving to Ireland are doing so for 'a range of different reasons,' stressing that indigenous firms in Ireland are sophisticated and well-placed to serve international business, and experienced in dealing with other global law centres. Mr Murphy said the real story of the legal profession domestically is the economic boom in Ireland generally. At 7.8 per cent, it is comfortably the highest in Europe and well above the UK’s 1.8 percent. Employment is growing at a faster-than-expected at 3 per cent, close to its pre-crash peak. Retail sales, arguably the strongest indicator of consumer confidence, are growing by 6 per cent.
Solicitors not arriving
Commenting in the December 2018 edition of the sociery's newly revamped Gazette, Mr Murphy discusses the ever-increasing numbers of England and Wales solicitors who are seeking to protect their EU practice rights for the future by becoming solicitors in Ireland. He said, ‘the number of transferring England and Wales solicitors leaped from some 50 in 2015 to 806 in 2016. The level of annual increase reduced slightly in 2017 to 547, but has surged again to date in 2018 with 601 applications this year, up to 15 November 2018, and 256 more applications currently being processed.’ England and Wales solicitors are enrolling but not arriving, however, as Mr Murphy explains ‘only 2 of the 20 largest firms on the 2018 list have established offices in this jurisdiction following the Brexit vote, namely Pinsent Mason and, to date in fledgling form, the world’s fourth biggest law firm, DLA Piper.’ The new-style Gazette with table of transfer firms can be downloaded here.