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Brexit sees British solicitors flocking to Republic of Ireland

By Gavin McLoughlin

The Brexit vote has seen London 'Magic Circle' law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer almost crack the top 10 list of Irish law firms by number of practising solicitors.

The Law Society of Ireland, the ruling body for solicitors, has experienced a surge in UK lawyers seeking to register in the Republic in the aftermath of the June referendum.

London-based multinational law firm DLA Piper has "fairly advanced" plans to launch a Dublin office, according to a senior partner at the firm.

Juan Picon told trade publication Legal Week that the move would be a "natural expansion from the UK".

"Post-Brexit, there will be more institutions looking to have a presence in Ireland," he is quoted as saying.

Writing in Ireland's Law Society Gazette this month, director general Ken Murphy said the Freshfields numbers will be a major talking point.

He said: "This results from the Brexit-related decision of 87 of their England-and-Wales-qualified solicitors not just to enter on the roll in Ireland (as a total of 806 England and Wales solicitors did last year) but to take out practising certificates in this jurisdiction.

"They chose to take out practising certificates even though the firm has no office in Ireland nor any plans to open one," he added.

A&L Goodbody tied Arthur Cox as the largest Irish law firm by number of practising solicitors at the end of last year - the first time there had ever been a tie at the top of the annually compiled list. Both firms have major operations in Belfast.

A&L drew level after adding 15 solicitors in 2016, while Arthur Cox shed 14. The Law Society figures, which rank the firms as of December 31 last year, show the number of practising solicitors exceeded 10,000 for the first time ever last year, with 10,098 holding practising certificates (PCs).

Matheson remained the third largest firm in the Republic, followed by McCann Fitzgerald.

Mr Murphy said last month that the number of British solicitors coming to Ireland should not cause alarm.

He said there was a distinct difference between someone joining the roll of solicitors, and those who take out practising certificates and actually practise in this country.

"At the moment it's a technical exercise," he added.

A small proportion of those who have joined the roll of solicitors have thus far taken out practising certificates.

Latest figures show 806 solicitors from England and Wales were added to the Irish roll last year, as lawyers scramble to ensure professional 'right of audience' in European courts. A further 27 solicitors from Northern Ireland were also added to the roll in 2016.

Before the Brexit vote, typically the Law Society would admit 50 to 100 solicitors from the UK in an average year.

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