13 Oct 2020

Seventeen lawyers make history as Ireland's first solicitors to become Senior Counsel

Top Irish firms are represented as the SC rank is opened up to the solicitors' branch of the profession

The Four Courts building in Dublin Shutterstock

A group of 17 solicitors have become the first members of the Law Society of Ireland to receive the award of Senior Counsel (SC).

The awards were conferred during a virtual ceremony led by the Chief Justice of Ireland, Frank Clarke, and follow reforms passed in 2015 opening up the SC mark of quality to solicitors as well as barristers.

They mirror similar provisions in the United Kingdom, where solicitor-advocates — who have the right to appear in higher courts – can be appointed as Queen’s Counsel (QC).

Unlike in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, where the QC rank is primarily an advocacy-based mark of excellence, the Irish scheme is open to transactional and advisory lawyers as well as senior litigators.

In September Ireland’s Legal Services Regulatory Authority invited applications for the rank on the basis of proven excellence. Candidates had to demonstrate excellence as an advocate or as a litigant or show their specialist knowledge in a particular area of law, as well as demonstrating their suitability overall.  

Dublin’s large commercial law firms were well represented, with veteran company lawyer Paul Egan, of Mason Hayes & Curran, appointed, along with head of construction Rory Kirrane, who said he was “delighted to be amongst the solicitor vanguard”. 

Two partners from A&L Goodbody were also recognised: senior disputes partner Liam Kennedy and Vincent Power, head of the firm’s EU and competition law practice.

Kennedy is co-chair of the IBA’s litigation committee, and an active member of the Law Society’s council, while Power is also well known for his procurement law work.  

William Fry head of EU/antitrust Cormac Little, team, also was also among those appointed while another competition lawyer, Bernard O’Connor, of NCTM Studio Legale in Brussels, was the only international appointment. 

Law Society president, Michele O’Boyle, said the Society was “immensely proud of our Senior Counsel colleagues as they carve out their unique place in Irish legal history”.

She added: "The 17 solicitors who were granted the patents of precedence come from a range of professional backgrounds and, from law firms large and small, urban and rural, from right across the country.”

Twenty barristers were also appointed as senior counsel in this year’s round.