In-house solicitors – requirement to hold a practising certificate

Registrar of Solicitors 16/12/2021

In-house solicitors (that is, solicitors practising as a solicitor by providing legal services as an employee of a non-solicitor) are required to hold a practising certificate regardless of the areas of law in which they practise.

Section 56(1) of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 provides that no solicitor shall practise as a solicitor unless a practising certificate in respect of him or her is in force. This prohibition does not apply to solicitors in the full-time services of the State or to solicitors employed to provide conveyancing services for a non-solicitor employer.

Section 56(2) of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 provides that a solicitor shall be deemed to practise as a solicitor if he or she engages in the provision of legal services, whether as a sole practitioner or as a partner in a solicitor’s practice, or as an employee of any solicitor or of any other person or body, or as a solicitor in the full-time service of the State.

‘Legal services’ are services of a legal or financial nature provided by a solicitor arising from that solicitor’s practice as a solicitor, includes any part of such services, and includes any investment business services provided by a solicitor who is not an authorised investment business firm.

Other than the exceptions mentioned above, it is professional misconduct and a criminal offence for a solicitor, including in-house solicitors, to provide legal services of any kind without holding a current valid practising certificate.

Section 58 of the 1954 act sets out the so-called ‘reserved areas’ in which legal services can only be provided by solicitors and, in some cases, barristers. These reserved areas deal primarily with conveyancing, litigation and probate work. It should be noted that the requirement for solicitors, including in-house solicitors, to hold a practising certificate applies whether the legal services being provided are in reserved or unreserved areas.

The actions that can be taken against a solicitor found to be practising without a practising certificate include a referral to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, an application to the High Court, and a report to An Garda Síochána.

Any queries relating to practising certificate requirement should be addressed to the Practice Regulation Section at pc@lawsociety.ie.