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Solicitors may apply to use title of Senior Counsel
Barristers going in to Four Courts Pic: RollingNews.ie

02 Jul 2020 / courts Print

Solicitors may apply to use title of Senior Counsel

Applications are now open for solicitors and barristers to apply to the LSRA Advisory Committee on Patents of Precedence to use the title of senior counsel.

The advisory committee has been established under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. It has established the criteria, which are set out in the objectives in section 173(2) of the act, and which must be met by a legal practitioner in order for a recommendation to be made by the advisory committee to the Government that a patent of precedence be granted to him or her.

Applications open

Applications are open to legal practitioners, as defined in the 2015 act; that is, a “practising barrister” or “qualified barrister” or “practising solicitor” or “registered lawyer, having the same right of audience as a practising barrister or a solicitor qualified to practise by virtue of Regulation 10 of the European Communities (Lawyers’ Establishment) Regulations 2003 (SI No 732 of 2003]). 

‘Practising solicitor’ is defined in the act as “a person who has been admitted as a solicitor, whose name is on the Roll of Solicitors, who provides legal services and who is, by reason of section 56 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994: 

a)   Required to hold a practising certificate, or is

b)  Exempted from the requirement to hold a practising certificate”.

Highest standard

The “highest standard” qualities required before recommendation for a grant of a Patent of Precedence are:

  • Professional experience, legal knowledge and probity applicants must have a depth of professional experience and perspective acquired over a considerable period. They must have up-to-date and expert legal knowledge and must always behave with probity. The objective is that a legal practitioner has displayed in his or her practice “a degree of competence and a degree of probity appropriate to and consistent with the grant to him or her of a Patent” (see section 173(2)(a)(i) of the 2015 act).
  • Professional independence – applicants must have independence of mind and moral courage. They must be willing to advance an argument that is not popular and be committed to their duty to the court, particularly where that duty may conflict with their client’s interests.
  • Integrity, honesty and professional standing – applicants should be honest, trustworthy, have maturity of judgement and the ability to make objective, sound judgements in difficult situations. They should command respect among their colleagues for adherence to the highest ethical standards. Applicants should create and maintain productive working relationships with clients, colleagues and the judiciary.

Matters affecting suitability

Matters that may affect suitability for recommendation include previous criminal convictions, findings of professional misconduct, bankruptcy, and any other information that does or may affect suitability for appointment.

It is essential that there is nothing in the conduct or affairs of an applicant that would make his or her appointment inappropriate.

In reaching an overall assessment of an application, the committee may have regard to the applicant demonstrating ability in one or more than one of the criteria below:

  • Excellence in the practice of advocacy – applicants must display superior skill in advocacy. Written or oral advocacy skills should demonstrate an ability to digest complex material quickly, to analyse the material comprehensively, to incisively identify the best approach, communicate this persuasively, and respond aptly to any counter arguments or questions.
  • Excellence in the practice of specialist litigation – applicants must be in a position of leadership in the practice of specialist litigation and must demonstrate unique knowledge in specialist litigation.
  • Specialist knowledge of an area of law – applicants must demonstrate specialist or unique knowledge in an area of the law and have a considerable experience in giving advice in a specialist area of the law.

Otherwise suitable

The 2015 act (see section 173(2)(d)) provides that, in relation to a legal practitioner seeking to have a patent granted to him or her, that he or she is also “otherwise suitable” to be granted a patent. Applicants may provide any additional information to the committee to demonstrate this.

A non-exhaustive list of the matters the committee may deem to render an applicant “otherwise suitable” includes:

  • Leadership in setting and maintaining standards in the legal profession for the good of the administration of justice,
  • A significant contribution to Irish society as a legal practitioner,
  • A significant contribution to the Irish legal profession, and
  • Commitment to improving access to justice.

All applications will be assessed against the above criteria. To recommend an applicant for a grant of a Patent of Precedence, the committee must be satisfied that there is compelling evidence of excellence in relation to the criteria.

Applicants must demonstrate how he or she meets the above criteria, by reference to an example or examples.

Use of the title

The grant of a Patent of Precedence in relation to a barrister entitles him or her to be called to the Inner Bar and to use the title of senior counsel. Regarding a solicitor, it entitles him or her to use the title of senior counsel.

The advisory committee consists of:

  • The Chief Justice (chair of the committee),
  • President of the Court of Appeal,
  • President of the High Court,
  • Attorney General,
  • Chair of the Bar Council,
  • President of the Law Society, and,
  • Dr Don Thornhill, a lay member of the authority (and its chair), nominated by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The deadline for receipt of completed applications is 5pm on 24 July.

For further details and information on how to submit an application, visit www.lsra.ie (search for ‘applications for senior counsel‘).

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