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Legal services have potential to be key export – AG
Attorney General Rossa Fanning at the Law Society Pic: Cian Redmond

01 Mar 2023 / business Print

Legal services' potential to be key export – AG

Attorney General Rossa Fanning (pictured) told the Ireland for Law Summit, hosted by the Law Society yesterday (28 February) that this country had situated itself at a confluence of multiple streams of commercial activity and inward investment. 
A strong legal-services sector had grown in tandem, and Irish lawyers had developed considerable experience and expertise in catering for key industries that had established themselves at scale here, he said.
The Attorney General (AG) stated 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 supports this Government initiative, and continues to work with Government departments and other stakeholders, like the Bar of Ireland and major legal firms, to promote the use of Irish legal services here and internationally.

Living standards

The AG 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.
A total of 301,475 people were directly employed by multinational companies in Ireland in December – an increase of 9% on the previous year, he added.
A large quotient of the ever-expanding legal services economy was dependent on this sector, the AG said.
The Government was acutely aware of the importance of international trade, and that was demonstrated by its commitment to Ireland for Law, and its strategy for international legal services, he added.

"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 AG said.

"The strength and credibility of the domestic legal system is an extremely important consideration for the multi-national sector in weighing up the attractiveness of doing business in any jurisdiction," he stated.
"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.

Uniquely well-placed

As a politically stable English-speaking country 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 good public administration, he continued.
Legal services could make a very good working contribution to Ireland's already strong offering, the AG said.
"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," he 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, the AG said. 

"We are therefore uniquely positioned to combine market access with a familiar legal system and public administration," he said.


Ireland for Law first emerged in the wake of expected Brexit disruption, but Ireland obviously wished to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit might bring, he said. 
The AG pointed to a common-law system, an English-speaking population and EU internal-market access as factors that gave Ireland significant advantages over other possible destinations for companies seeking to move from, or scale down, their operations in the UK. 

"It is not just about mimicking London, or acting as its surrogate, but it is about building a sustainable strategy for Ireland to attract and retain investment," he continued.

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 a 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 will go to 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.

Public interest

General counsel surveyed by the Law Society have said 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 would be acted upon by the Government, the AG said – including an increased use of technology to make litigation more efficient, reforms to costs rules, and changes to procedure 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, Fanning continued.
"Ensuring that disputes can be resolved in Irish courts fairly, expeditiously and at reasonable cost is not something which assists international, and indeed domestic businesses, but it is also something which 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, contact IFL@lawsociety.ie

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