UK lawyers flock to Ireland ahead of Brexit vote

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UK lawyers from major firms are flocking to Ireland to protect their right to practice in the European Union, pending the outcome of the UK Brexit vote.

According to a report by The Australian, UK lawyers may lose the right to represent clients in EU courts and the protection from disclosing legal advice to clients in the event of a European Commission antitrust investigation.

Ahead of the UK’s referendum on Thursday, a record 186 UK lawyers have registered in Ireland this year with many applications still underway, a massive increase from 101 UK lawyers admitted in 2015 and just 51 in 2014.

“There’s been an unmistakable surge,” said Ken Murphy, director-general of the Law Society of Ireland.

Lawyers need to produce proof of good standing and three character references to register in Ireland, along with a €300 ($US340) fee, in addition to a €2,500 annual fee.

“Ireland is the most obvious choice for UK lawyers, due to the relatively simple rules for admission to the roll of solicitors that the Law Society of Ireland operates for English solicitors,” said Becket McGrath, a partner specializing in competition law at London law firm Cooley LLP.

Reports say that lawyers from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, Slaughter and May, Clifford Chance LLP and Hogan Lovells International LLP have rushed to register in Ireland.

A member of campaign group Lawyers-In for Britain and partner at Sidley Austin LLP Stepehn Kinsella, said that there would be more than just the loss of EU privileges effecting the legal profession in the event of an exit vote by the UK.

“Many law firms in London are only the size they are because London is a financial centre,” he said.
“Even if there’s a relatively modest downscaling [of financial services], that’s going to have a major impact.”

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