Reach of EU law now is 'wider than ever' - Clarke
James Cahill of Westport chats with the Chief Justice Pic: Lensman

14 Jul 2018 / EU law Print

Reach of EU law 'wider than ever' says Chief Justice

“The legal practitioner who thinks that they can avoid EU law is self-delusional,” Chief Justice Frank Clarke told an audience at the Law Society’s annual dinner in July.

The truth is the reach of EU law is now wider than it ever was and is now a matter for every lawyer, rather than just specialists, the Chief Justice said.

“The Victim Directive is going to come to a summary trial in the District Court near you any day soon,” he said.

Expanding on the theme of the growing scope of EU law, the Chief Justice said “you can’t amend if you don’t attend.”

Speaking on the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit, the Chief Justice told the 170 guests at Blackhall Place that the legal profession is often very poor at explaining itself.

If the common law voice is not represented at negotiations then we can’t complain if decisions are made, and three years later they turn out not to be particularly attractive from a common law point of view, the Chief Justice said.

He said that Irish judges are now frequently replacing British ones on European judicial bodies and that this is placing a burden on the small Irish judiciary.

He pointed out that Ireland in the past has depended on Britain to fight the common law corner, but will now have to intervene in cases before European courts.

“Brexit will almost certainly be negative for Ireland,” the Chief Justice said but he believes  that we can mitigate the areas which are going to be problematic, and exploit the areas with potential for expansion, such as internationally-traded legal services.

He welcomed the programme launched by the Law Society, IDA, the Bar Council and the Department of Justice to promote Ireland as a centre of excellence, post-Brexit, for the conduct of international litigation.

The collective will of the professions, the government and the judiciary is necessary to show that Ireland is open for that kind of business, he said.

“A relatively small slice of what London might lose could be very valuable from an Irish perspective,” the Chief Justice pointed out.

But he warned that he has heard rumblings at international meetings that downplay Ireland’s chances of taking this work. The rumours suggest a lack of resources and scale and of judges of sufficient quality and qualification to be able to handle a great increase in this type of litigation.

This emphasises more than ever the importance of a high-quality judiciary which Ireland can sell internationally as every bit as good as those in London, the Chief Justice said.

With this in place, Ireland can exploit its natural head start in having a common law English-speaking legal system inside the EU, he said.

Eyeing loot

The Chief Justice said that Ireland was not the only country eyeing the loot of the London commercial litigation market. 

“Amazingly, the French have now set up a commercial court which is prepared to have pleadings in English, quelle domage!” he quipped.

“The idea that the French are actually allowing people to plead a case in their courts, in English, shows how hungry mouths are out there trying to bite...”

“We start with an advantage because we naturally speak the language. But there are other contenders, the Dutch, the Germans, so we will have a fight on our hands,” he said.

Law Society President Michael Quinlan, meanwhile, explained the priorities for his term of office – championing the small legal practice, preparing for Brexit and well-being and self-care for solicitors.

Personal cost

He spoke about the high personal cost of striving for success in professional life and said he was encouraged by the new openness he sees in lawyers who are willing to talk about their pressures and stress.

“We are all professionals, but more importantly and more fundamentally, we are all people. Our training means we are comfortable taking charge, reliable in a crisis, always the rescuer, never the rescued.

“Our professional persona requires us to be learned, competent, in control and unflappable,” he said, pointing out that without the appropriate psychological and emotional support scaffolding, the very things that attracted us to professional life can lead to our undoing.

Avoid overwork

“Our culture traditionally leant itself to self-medication, or perhaps most commonly of all, to over-working,” he warned.

He urged solicitors not to forget the things that make life work better, such as friendships, passions, family time, regular working hours and weekends, and especially, picking up the phone to each other.

“I hope this is the beginning of an additional way the Society can engage supportively with its members,” the president concluded.

Click on the 'Gallery' tab in the menu to see more pictures of who was at the Law Society Annual Dinner this year.


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