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Dublin can mop up legal business post-Brexit says Attorney General
Pic: Jason Clarke

19 Jul 2019 / Law Society Print

Dublin can mop up legal business post-Brexit – AG

Attorney General (AG) Seamus Woulfe has pleaded with lawyers to use plain English.

Speaking at a parchment ceremony at the Law Society in Blackhall Place last night, the AG said that the outcome of cases can sometimes hinge on clear or unclear English.

“Try to ensure clarity in the law and in access to the law,” he urged the new solicitors, speaking at last night’s ceremony.

“We will never have enough money to help to fund everybody, through legal aid, who wants access to justice but we can help people to understand their rights, if the language is more intelligible,” he said.

Tragedy

He observed that while Brexit is a tragedy in many ways, and a potential tragedy for Ireland, there may be some compensation in the commercial legal opportunities available.

There is potential for international legal business to relocate to Ireland, given that it is an English-speaking, common law jurisdiction.

The UK is the second largest legal services market in the world, with work to the value of £26 billion in 2018 employing 340,000 people, and a big international dispute resolution sector, the AG observed.

Ireland has the same advantages of certainty and respect for its common law legal system, the AG said. However, the average waiting time for the Commercial Court was 24 weeks in 2016, from entry of a case to its conclusion.

Greatly improved alternative dispute resolution structures are also in place in this country, he said.

However, in order to offer Dublin instead of London as a new forum for international disputes “we have to increase the efficiencies in our own system and we have to put greater resources into the system, including more judges, more back-up resources and, in general, improve and modernise our system.”

Opportunity

Lawyers should want to modernise in any case, said the AG, but Brexit offers the opportunity to do it in exchange for increased business.

“The trade-off is a quid pro quo. We’re going to have to consider intervening in more cases in front of the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, and we’re going to have to do more pre-legislative scrutiny.

“All of that involves great opportunity for new young lawyers, not just in private practice. You should also consider the possibilities in public service,” the AG told the new solicitors.

Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal encouraged the new solicitors to get involved in their Law Society, in order to get to know colleagues and make valued friendships.

“I regret that I did not get involved with the Law Society during my first 25 years of practice,” he said.

Get involved with Law Society

“Get involved at some level, and with your local Bar Association,” he urged the graduates.

He said he had enjoyed tremendously his 32 years as a solicitor, followed by 17 years on the bench as the first solicitor to be appointed as a High Court judge.

He said he was envious of the new graduates for the very rewarding life and career that lay ahead of them as solicitors.

Life as a solicitor is not merely rewarding in a monetary sense, he said, but also personally rewarding because it gives the training and education to go as far or as high as one wishes.

“I encourage you to be ambitious, to stretch yourselves, but to know yourselves well. That means to know what are your strengths, but also to be conscious of your weaknesses.

"Enjoy your successes but also learn from your failures,” he advised. “There will be some [failures] and don’t be afraid of failure, because you learn far more from your failures than you do from successes.

Hard work

“You can achieve whatever you set your heart on, but it does involve hard work.”

Mr Justice Peart said that early in his career, he had loved the “theatre of court life” and had given serious consideration to crossing the floor to become a barrister but was talked out of it by his late father Denis, also a lawyer.

He said that in 2002, as a result of enormous efforts by successive presidents of the Law Society, government amended legislative to allow practising solicitors become judges of the superior courts.

First solicitor-judge

“As a result, I was bold enough to apply and I was lucky enough to be nominated as the first solicitor-judge to be appointed to the superior courts,”

In 2014, Mr Justice Peart was appointed to the Court of Appeal. He said he had enjoyed his legal career enormously and had met many wonderful colleagues along the way.

He wished the new solicitors good health, because they will need it to work hard and the energy to climb the greasy pole to success, he said.

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