A report from the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) shows that 11,652 solicitors held practising certificate in Ireland at the end of last year.
This represented an increase of 2%, and followed two years of slight falls from the recent high of 11,959, recorded in 2019.
The figures came in the LSRA’s report Pathways to the Professions 2022: Annual Report on Admission Policies of the Legal Professions.
The authority said that the Law Society and the Bar of Ireland had noted a “generally increased demand” for the services of solicitors and barristers during the year, as COVID-19-related court backlogs generated demand and the economy rebounded.
The LSRA stated that the fall-off in solicitor numbers from 2019 followed a short-lived Brexit-related phenomenon of large international law firms with no establishment in Ireland taking out Irish practising certificates for their solicitors.
Since January 2021, the Law Society issues annual practising certificates only to solicitors who are practising or intending to practise in Ireland from an establishment based in this jurisdiction.
A total of 515 solicitors were admitted to the Roll of Solicitors, which is maintained by the Society, in 2021. The LRSA points out that admission to the Roll does not legally entitle a solicitor to provide legal services, although it is a pre-requisite for applying for an annual practising certificate.
Of the solicitors admitted to the Roll, 307 (60%) were newly-qualified in Ireland, and 134 (26%) were qualified in England and Wales.
Around one-fifth of practising solicitors (2,605) worked in the corporate or public in-house sector in 2022, while almost 30% (3,211) worked with 20 employers.
These large employers comprised the main large law firms and large public-sector bodies.
The report also shows that 560 trainee solicitors enrolled on the Society’s Professional Practice Course (PPC) in 2022 – the highest intake of PPC trainees in 15 years. There were 469 new trainees undertaking the full-time PPC and 91 trainees new on the PPC Hybrid.
The LRSA notes that 2022 saw the Law Society change the format of the PPC for trainee solicitors, with the traditional two-part course (PPC I and PPC II) consolidated into a single block of taught instruction spanning an academic year.
Barrister figure edges up
The report shows that the number of barristers on the Roll of Practising Barristers stood at 2,957 at the end of 2022 – an increase of 1% from 2021.
Of the total, 73% were barristers practising as members of the Law Library and 27% were not members of the Law Library. The LSRA maintains the online register of all barristers entitled to provide legal services in the State.
A total of 92 new members joined the Law Library at the start of the new legal year in October 2022 – down 10% from 2021. Of these, 90 began their 12-month pupillage, and two were applicants from another jurisdiction who were not required to undergo pupillage.
The LRSA report shows that 147 people were called to the bar and admitted to practice by the Chief Justice in 2022 – down 18% from 2021.