Law Society urges action to progress diversity and inclusion among senior counsel

The Law Society of Ireland is calling for meaningful action to increase diversity and inclusion among the 2022 awarding of Patents of Precedence to improve representation of solicitors, women and those with diverse backgrounds.

Solicitors were first permitted to apply for the grant of a Patent of Precedence and use the title of senior counsel in 2020, with 29 solicitors having received this recognition to date.

Director General of the Law Society, Mark Garrett said, “Solicitors contribute to all areas of Irish society, a society which has grown in diversity and now requires similar diversity reflected among its most experienced legal advisors. As the largest branch of the legal profession, solicitors provide a valuable perspective on the administration of justice. Their unique experience as trusted advisors working directly with clients to enable businesses, organisations and communities to thrive will contribute to the diversity and inclusion we would like to see among senior counsel.”

“Solicitors hold a position of immense responsibility and trust in our society and are committed to developing in-depth specialist knowledge.  Integrity and honesty are shared values and fundamental characteristics of both the solicitors’ profession and senior counsel. As such, society will benefit from increased representation of solicitors as senior counsel. It is practically important that we see more women and more legal professionals from diverse backgrounds joining the ranks of senior counsel in the years ahead,” he explained.

Increased diversity

Chairperson of the Law Society’s Mental Health and Capacity Law Task Force, Áine Hynes S.C. said, “Women are in the majority of the solicitors’ profession in Ireland and it is vital that the knowledge, experience and contribution to society by women is enhanced. We need to progress diversity among senior counsel to reflect Irish society, and this starts with empowering more women to apply.

It was the honour of a lifetime to be among the first women solicitors to use the title senior counsel. I look forward to seeing many more solicitors, and many more women solicitors, apply for and receive the Patent of Precedence in the years ahead.”

Chairperson of the Law Society’s Education Committee, Richard Hammond S.C. said, “A solicitor who is made a senior counsel will normally be someone who has been recognised by the Government of Ireland as an expert in a specialised area of practice and who is relied upon by colleagues and clients alike for sound insight and advice. This recognition, that solicitors are able to obtain such an acknowledged level of expertise, demonstrates the value of a solicitor as a legal practitioner and the crucial role that solicitors play in representing and advising clients.

There is tremendous talent within the solicitors’ profession, and attaining the status of senior counsel is a great way of promoting both the appointed solicitor and the profession in general. The collegiate nature of the profession is also important. When solicitors were first invited to apply for senior counsel in 2020, I was encouraged by many colleagues to put myself forward, and without such encouragement I may not have done. We need more solicitors to apply to become senior counsel and a little encouragement from a trusted colleague can go a long way.”

Representation for society

“The Law Society would like to see more solicitors applying for and granted use of the senior counsel title. This would serve to recognise the expertise and contribution to increasing access to justice made by thousands of solicitors across the country every day. We are encouraged that many have taken the opportunity to apply to date. And we know that many more have the qualifications and experience necessary to achieve this recognition,” Mr Garrett said.

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