07 February 2018

Solicitor numbers in Ireland rise as economy booms and “Brexit effect” surge of English lawyers plateaus

The number of solicitors practicing in Ireland has grown by 3.5% over the last year.

The number of solicitors practicing in Ireland has grown by 3.5% over the last year according to figures from the Law Society of Ireland. At the end of December 2017 there were 10,461 lawyers with a practicing certificate (PC), up by 363 from 10,098 in 2016. Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society of Ireland, described the growth as “reasonably robust”.

Economic growth

Murphy told the Global Legal Post: ‘The economy went through an enormous boom, then suffered a huge bust with the recession and we are now in recovery.” Brexit, he said, had so far not had a significant impact on business and the increasing level of demand for legal services has closely mirrored the growth of the economy in Ireland. He said: “In Dublin and the larger cities, we are back in boom across all practice areas, but that it not universal.”

Top firms

The number of solicitors at the largest 20 firms, which account for 24% of the profession, went up by 84 (3.4%) from 2,441 to 2,525. The largest two firms are A&L Goodbody (293 solicitors) and Arthur Cox (274). Last year both firms had 275 solicitors on their books, but during 2017 A&L Goodbody opened up the gap, adding 18 PC holders – the largest numerical increase of any firm. The others in the top five are Matherson (268), McCann FitzGerald (247) and William Fry (220).

Brexit effect

The uncertainty prompted by the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 lead to a surge in solicitors from England and Wales applying to join the Irish roll (at a cost of €300). In the last two years, 1,317 have joined – 806 in 2016 and 511 joined in 2017, a 36% dip.

Main players

In 2017, as in 2016, Eversheds Sutherland and Freshfileds Bruckhaus Deringer transferred the highest numbers. Eversheds has a total of 132 lawyers on the roll – 86 joined in 2016 and 46 in 2017, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has117 – most of whom joined in 2016. The third firm on the list, Slaughter and May, almost doubled its number of transferring solicitors, from 40 to 79, while Hogan Lovells increased its share by eight, from 34 to 42. US headquartered Latham & Watkins, which did not appear on the list in 2016, now has 47, the fourth highest number.

Brexit PCs

For the first time this year, the Law Society Gazette of Ireland published a table of “Brexit firms with Irish practicing certificates”. Despite being on the roll, solicitors in Ireland require a practicing certificate (costing €2,550) to practice. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer topped the table with 86 – far higher than second place Hogan Lovells with 22. Pinsent Masons, the only firm that has indicated it will open an office in the jurisdiction, was in third place, with 16.

Still at London desks

Murphy said there was a “phenomenal growth” in applications from solicitors in England and Wales qualified lawyers immediately after the Brexit vote, but the number has plateaued. “Most are EU and competition lawyers in London and Brussels offices, who have remained at their desks in London and Brussels, but want to retain their status as EU law practitioners when Britain is no longer in the EU.”