08 January 2019

Ireland's legal community aims to charm post-Brexit business from UK

As 2019 Brexit pressure mounts, Irish government backs 'timely' legal bid to become go-to post-Brexit international legal services hub.

A joint initiative of The Bar of Ireland, the Law Society and the wider legal community has received government backing for their plan to promote Ireland as a post-Brexit centre for international legal services. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Irish media:‘One of the areas that could benefit from Brexit are legal services, on the basis that Ireland could… take some business from the UK.’

Timely bid

The coordinated initiative, which has been in development since  2017 and also supported by IDA Ireland, is now part of the government's Brexit strategy, the Irish justice minister Charlie Flanagan explained. Mr Flanagan said: ‘While the ultimate outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains to be seen, the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union will leave Ireland as the only English-speaking common law jurisdiction in the Union. We will be well placed to provide expanded international litigation and arbitration services.’ He added that the initiative is ‘a timely means of positively exploiting the competitive advantages of our courts and legal systems, which are of global renown, in the provision of EU and other international legal services in a post-Brexit setting.’

Real opportunity

Commenting, Chairman of The Council of The Bar of Ireland, Mícheál P O’Higgins SC said of the initiative:  ‘The UK is the second largest market for legal services globally and English law is used for commercial contracts across the world. As the UK leaves the EU, the likelihood is that judgements of English courts may not be enforced in EU member states easily. This is just one of the reasons why there is now a real opportunity to increase the market for international legal services in Ireland.’ He added: ‘We have estimated that even a one per cent movement of legal services from the UK to Ireland could add between 1,100 and 1,600 jobs to the Irish economy in a year.’

Continuing court reform

The next stage is to establish an implementation group off all key stakeholders, including government departments and IDA Ireland. Mr Flanagan explained ‘this initiative will be integral to the government’s ‘continuing programme of courts, judicial, legislative and legal services reform that I am leading at my Department in conjunction with the Courts Service and the judiciary.’ Mr O’Higgins said, ‘we look forward to working with our colleagues in the wider legal community, and with the IDA and Government stakeholders, in the establishment of an implementation group to take the initiative forward.’