Speaking at the Ireland for Law Summit, hosted by the Law Society on 28 February, the attorney general stated that Irish lawyers have developed considerable experience and expertise in catering for key industries that have established themselves at scale here.
He added that legal services could make an important contribution to Ireland’s already strong offering in aviation finance, funds, insurance, technology, pharmaceutical, and life sciences by ensuring that companies based here could access high-quality legal services and resolve disputes efficiently and effectively.
Ireland for Law seeks to leverage this expertise to attract companies to direct their legal work through Ireland, whether by choosing Irish law for contracts or resolving disputes through the Irish courts. Legal services also had the potential to be a key export that would further support the growth of the Irish economy, the AG added.
The Law Society is supporting this Government initiative and continues to work with Government departments and other stakeholders, including the Bar of Ireland and major legal firms, to promote the use of Irish legal services at national and international level.
Mr Fanning pointed out that active participation in international trade and collaboration with businesses all over the world had tangibly improved living standards and opportunities for Irish people, as well as bolstering public finances.
Last December, a total of 301,475 people were recorded as being directly employed by multinational companies in Ireland – an increase of 9% on the previous year, he said. A large quotient of the ever-expanding legal services’ economy was dependent on this sector, the AG added.
The Government was acutely aware of the importance of international trade. That was demonstrated by its commitment to Ireland for Law and its strategy for international legal services, he commented.
“This strategy seeks to promote Irish law, the Irish legal system, and Irish legal services to a wider audience and to assist the Irish legal economy realise its full potential.
“The strength and credibility of the domestic legal system is an extremely important consideration for the multinational sector in weighing up the attractiveness of doing business in any jurisdiction.
“A central part of the Ireland for Law message is that this country is not only a beneficiary of international trade, but that it has a great deal to offer to global businesses,” the AG said.
Ireland for Law first emerged in the wake of expected Brexit disruption, but Ireland obviously now wishes to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit brings.
“While it is led by Government, Ireland for Law is a collaborative project with assistance from across the public and private sectors – including various Government departments, IDA Ireland, my own office, the Bar of Ireland, and the Law Society,” the AG stated.
“It is not just about mimicking London or acting as its surrogate,” the AG commented, “but it is about building a sustainable strategy for Ireland to attract and retain investment.”
As a politically stable, English-speaking jurisdiction with a common-law legal system and a highly educated workforce, Ireland was uniquely well-placed to provide market access with a familiar ecosystem and strong public administration, he continued. Legal services could make a very welcome working contribution to Ireland’s already strong offering, the AG said.
Ireland uniquely combines cultural, linguistic, and legal links to the US and the rest of the Anglophone world with EU membership – including access to the vast internal market and its 447 million consumers, he said. These were factors that gave Ireland significant advantages over other possible destinations for companies seeking to move from, or scale down, their operations in Britain.
“We are therefore uniquely positioned to combine market access with a familiar legal system and public administration,” he said.
Competitive legal services
The Government was committed to making the Irish legal system an attractive environment for business and ensuring that Irish legal services would be competitive in the longer term, he said, with action to ensure that the infrastructure would be in place – including an impending substantial increase in the numbers of judges.
“The Government acknowledges the importance to business of swift and decisive dispute resolution, and judicial resources are a key part of this,” the AG said.
Judicial resources have been pledged for a new specialised division of the High Court – the Planning and Environmental Law Court – that will seek to accelerate the resolution of planning disputes to facilitate the development of physical infrastructure to support business, he added.
General counsel surveyed by the Law Society have stated that the process of litigation must become more efficient, without compromising on the quality of decision-making.
The measures set out in the Kelly review of the administration of civil justice would be acted upon by the Government, the AG said – including an increased use of technology to make litigation more efficient, the introduction of reforms to costs rules, and changes to procedures to ensure more timely hearings and reduced delays.
The measures adopted as part of Ireland for Law were also of public interest in a more fundamental way, Mr Fanning continued: “Ensuring that disputes can be resolved in Irish courts fairly, expeditiously, and at reasonable cost is not something that just assists international, and indeed domestic businesses, but it is also something that is in the interests of the ordinary citizen as well,” he concluded.
For more information, visit www.irelandforlaw.com. If your firm would like to get involved, email IFL@lawsociety.ie.
Read and print a PDF of this article here.
Mary Hallissey is a journalist at the Law Society Gazette.