We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

SC solicitors

02 Oct 2020 / courts Print

SC solicitors make legal history

Solicitors are now eligible for a designation that, for centuries, was reserved for the Bar, with the appointment of 17 solicitors as senior counsel.

Seventeen solicitors from across Ireland made legal history on Tuesday, 1 September 2020 when they were named the first solicitors in the State to be granted patents of precedence.

This allows them to use the designation senior counsel – an honour previously reserved for “senior barristers of professional eminence, called to the Inner Bar by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, on the approval of the Government”.

Members of the solicitors’ profession were invited to apply for patents of precedence earlier this year as a result of provisions of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Solicitors can apply for appointment on the basis of ‘proven excellence’.

Applications were considered by the Advisory Committee on the Grant of Patents of Precedence, which made recommendations to Government under section 174(4)(a) of the act.

The members of the committee include the Chief Justice (chair), the President of the Court of Appeal, the President of the High Court, the Attorney General, the Chair of the Bar Council, the President of the Law Society, and Dr Don Thornhill, a lay member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and its chair, nominated by the Minister for Justice.

Mark of distinction

The honour has been a long time coming for our most eminent practitioners. As far back as 2005, the Competition Authority recommended that, if the title of senior counsel were to be retained, then it should be opened up to solicitors.

Writing about the topic in the April 2005 Gazette, Dr Eamonn Hall said: “The Competition Authority concluded that the title of senior counsel as currently awarded may distort competition and that, if the title is to be retained, it should be opened up to solicitors.

The authority noted that the title was perceived as a mark of quality for specialisations other than advocacy. To that extent, the title may distort the market against solicitors whose specialisation in a given discipline may be as great as that of a senior counsel.”

Dr Hall concluded with the authority’s statement that there appeared to be “no justification for confining the title to barristers and excluding solicitors”.

The first day of September, then, marked a historic day for the solicitors’ profession – at last recognising it to be on a par with its barrister colleagues.

Reacting to the news, Law Society President Michele O’Boyle stated: “I am proud to be standing at the helm as 17 solicitors make history this week, as the first in the State to be granted the right to use the title of senior counsel.

Broad cohort

“The solicitors come from a wide variety of practices right across the country, spanning urban and rural, large practices and small, as well as sole practitioners. It is clear that the depth and breadth of experience and expertise these colleagues collectively possess is of enormous value to the Irish justice system.”

The president commented that she hoped and expected that many more solicitors with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience would apply in the future.

President O’Boyle added: “In particular, I look forward to seeing a balance of male and female solicitors applying for, and being granted, patents of precedence, to reflect the modern legal profession and 21st century Ireland.”

Director general Ken Murphy congratulated all 17 solicitors, saying: “I recall discussing this with then Justice Minister Alan Shatter before he published his bill in 2011. I urged that it should be not only litigation solicitors, but also excellent practitioners in all areas of practice who should be eligible, and I was delighted that that was the result.”

It is believed that 36 men and 11 women applied to the LSRA for patents of precedence, corresponding to a success rate of 42% for men but only 18% for women. The director general said this was disappointing.

However he believed the most likely explanation for it was not conscious or unconscious bias, but that the senior echelons of the profession continued to reflect the intake of the past, which had been more male dominated.

The 17 solicitors granted patents of precedence are:

Éamonn Conlon SC
Éamonn Conlon Solicitors, Shankill, Dublin 18
Éamonn specialises in construction and infrastructure law and dispute resolution. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and an accredited mediator. He recently commenced sole practice, after 16 years as partner at A&L Goodbody, where he led the construction group in the litigation department and also the firm’s pro bono practice. Before that, he practised construction law in Ireland, Britain and California. He began his career at the Irish bar in 1983.

Paul Egan SC
Mason Hayes & Curran LLP, Dublin 4
Paul is a senior consultant with Mason Hayes & Curran LLP, where he began his career in 1978 and was partner for 30 years, including ten years as head of corporate. He practises in company law and securities law. A former member of the Irish Takeover Panel, he chairs the Company Law Review Group and is author of, and contributor to, several legal textbooks. Paul has been a Council member since 2011. He currently serves on its Education Committee and Finance Committee.

Patrick Groarke SC
Groarke & Partners, Longford
Patrick enrolled as a solicitor in 1971 and was conferred with an LLM from UCD in 1984. Practising as a solicitor in Longford his entire career, he has specialised in defending professional negligence claims against solicitors before the regulatory committees of the Law Society and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. He was a member of the Superior Courts Rules Committee (1998-2013) and chaired the Law Society’s Litigation Committee from 1988-90. He lectures in litigation and risk management and has been a FLAC volunteer for over 30 years.

Richard Hammond SC
Hammond Good, Solicitors, Mallow, Co Cork
Richard is a partner, with his spouse Joyce A Good Hammond, at their Mallow-based law firm. He is a self-described ‘succession law enthusiast’ who also specialises in professional regulation. Much of his practice involves succession law consultancy for other law firms. He is a past-president of the Southern Law Association. Richard teaches extensively at the Law Society’s Law School on the Professional Practice Courses. He is widely published and contributes regularly to CPD conferences for Law Society Professional Training, as well as local bar associations.

Bill Holohan SC
Holohan Lane LLP, Cork
Bill is the senior partner of Holohan Lane LLP, Cork and Dublin, and practises primarily in the areas of arbitration and mediation, insolvency, and professional negligence. A prolific author and conference speaker, he has authored eight books and presented countless papers and articles. A former chair of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Irish Branch), he also previously made legal history in 2000 as the first notary public to be simultaneously appointed for Cork and Dublin.

Áine Hynes SC
St John Solicitors LLP, Dublin 7
Áine is a partner in St John Solicitors, specialising in disability and mental-health law. She is vice-chair of the Law Society’s Mental Health and Capacity Task Force and chairs the DSBA’s Mental Health and Capacity Committee. She is a member of the Law Society’s Council, a member of its Legal Services Regulation Act Task Force, and serves on the Regulation of Practice Committee, as well as the Litigation Committee. She is a past-president of the DSBA.

Liam Kennedy SC
A&L Goodbody, Dublin 1
Liam, a partner and commercial litigator with A&L Goodbody, originally hails from Dunedin, New Zealand. He has served on the Law Society’s Council for 12 years and chairs its Litigation Committee. He also serves on the Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and the Legal Services Regulation Act Task Force. He represents the Law Society on the Government task force for the promotion of Irish law and legal services internationally. He is a member of the Remote Courts Task Force and is an active member of the International Bar Association, and recent chair of its Litigation Committee.

Rory Kirrane SC
Mason Hayes & Curran LLP, Dublin 4
Rory is a senior partner at Mason Hayes & Curran and is head of the construction, infrastructure and utilities department. He advises and represents utilities, funders, developers, contractors, insurers and professional consultants. He has particular expertise in real-estate development, renewable energy, and gas. He joined the firm in 2004 as partner after qualifying and working in London with the international shipping practice Ince & Co. He is a graduate of UCD and the London School of Economics.

Cormac Little SC
William Fry, Dublin 2
A graduate of UCG, Université de Poitiers, and the College of Europe (Bruges), Cormac is a partner and head of William Fry’s competition and regulation department. He specialises in EU/Irish competition, merger control, State aid, and public procurement law. He advises on the compatibility of business arrangements with EU and Irish competition laws. He also has a broader regulatory focus, advising clients on complying with anti-money-laundering rules and on issues relating to white-collar crime. Cormac is head of the Irish delegation and Law Society representative to the CCBE (Council of European Bars and Law Societies), as well as being vice-chair of the Law Society’s EU and International Affairs Committee.

James MacGuill SC
MacGuill & Co, Dundalk, Co Louth
James is managing partner of MacGuill and Co. A native of Dundalk, he was admitted to the Roll in 1986, having obtained his BCL in UCC. He was appointed a notary public in 1996. As a litigator, he focuses on public law, especially criminal law, representing clients in all of the European courts. An active member on Law Society committees for many years, he is chair of the Anti-Money-Laundering Task Force. He served as president of the Society in 2007/08. Having served as head of the Irish delegation to the CCBE, he is now second vice-president of that organisation and, in that capacity, a frequent interlocutor with the European institutions on criminal law and human rights issues.

Roger Murray SC
Callan Tansey Solicitors LLP, Sligo
Roger heads up the medical negligence department of Callan Tansey Solicitors LLP, which has a national reputation for excellence. A recognised leader in the area of medical law, Roger represents families as an advocate at medical inquests nationwide. A graduate of UCD (BCL, 1995), he was admitted to the Roll in 1999 and is a highly regarded commentator and lecturer in the field of medical law.

Helen Noble SC
Noble Shipping Law, Arklow, Co Wicklow
Helen is the principal of Noble Shipping Law, based in Arklow. She was called to the Bar in England and Wales in 1994. She completed a master’s in international commercial law at Nottingham University. Thereafter, she worked in the London and Singapore offices of a leading international shipping law practice, before relocating to Ireland in 2004 to establish a shipping and transport practice. Helen has over 25 years’ experience as a dual-qualified Irish and English practising solicitor and is regularly called upon as a legal expert on Irish maritime and transport law.

Bernard O’Connor SC
Nctm Studio Legale, Brussels, Belgium
Bernard worked for two years as a solicitor in Dublin and then specialised in EEC law at the University of Amsterdam and the European University in Florence. He has been based in Brussels since 1986, and is a partner in Nctm, one of Italy’s largest law firms. The advisory committee recommended him based on his case work before the EU courts in Luxembourg, his World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute-settlement experience, and his overall knowledge of EU and WTO law. He is a long-term visiting professor in trade and agricultural law at the University of Milan.

Dr Vincent Power SC
A&L Goodbody, Dublin 1
Vincent is head of EU, competition and procurement law at A&L Goodbody. He is an internationally renowned lawyer involved in many leading EU, competition and transport cases, advising both public and private-sector clients. He is listed in the Lloyd’s List ‘Top 10 Maritime Lawyers 2019’ worldwide. An author of several award-winning textbooks, he has been invited to speak at conferences in over 25 countries. A graduate of UCC (BCL) and Cambridge (LLM and PhD), Dr Power is adjunct professor of law at UCC and visiting professor of EU law at Canada’s Dalhousie University.

Dara Robinson SC
Sheehan & Partners, Dublin 8
After qualifying in London in 1988, Dara joined Garrett Sheehan and Co in 1992, where he is now joint senior and managing partner. He brought his British experience to the existing human-rights ethos of the firm, particularly in developing a strong mental-health law practice. He continues to manage numerous serious and complex criminal cases. Always active on Law Society committees, he is a chairperson of the Mental Health Tribunals and has written, lectured and broadcast extensively on legal topics.

Michael Staines SC
Michael J Staines & Co, Dublin 7
Michael qualified as a solicitor in 1974. He is a partner in Michael J Staines & Company, the firm he founded over 35 years ago. He has represented public figures, individuals, and corporate entities in some of the highest profile and most complex cases in the Irish criminal courts. He has extensive expertise in corporate, regulatory, and white-collar crime and has appeared as advocate without counsel before all courts (including appearing in jury trials) and before many regulatory bodies.

Damien MP Tansey SC
Damien Tansey Solicitors LLP, Sligo
Damien is founding and senior partner of Damien Tansey Solicitors LLP. He specialises in litigation, in particular medical negligence and personal injuries. During his almost 40 years of practice, he has been involved in some of the largest compensation awards handed down by the Irish courts. He has also been the lead advocate at over 100 coroners’ inquests. He is a member of the Law Society’s Litigation Committee and regularly receives referrals from other solicitors, including requests to act as an expert witness.

Barristers named as SCs

Twenty barristers were also named senior counsel: John Breslin, Nessa Cahill, Eoin Carolan, Maurice Coffey, Catherine Donnelly, Marcus Dowling, Stephen Dowling, Michael Duffy, Emily Farrell, Brian Foley, Damien Higgins, Dean Kelly, Brian Kennelly, Suzanne Kingston, Darren Lehane, Anthony Moore, Bernadette Quigley, David Sharpe, Derek Shortall, and Kelley Smith.

Mark McDermott
Mark McDermott is the Editor of the Law Society Gazette