Law Society welcomes historic move to allow solicitors become senior counsel

The Law Society of Ireland has welcomed the change to allow solicitors become senior counsel for the first time in the State’s history.

President of the Law Society Michele O’Boyle, said, “It is a significant moment in Ireland’s legal history and I warmly welcome the LSRA’s move to allow solicitors become senior counsel for the first time.”

The move comes as the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) opens applications for legal practitioners (solicitors and barristers) to apply to the advisory committee on the grant of patents of precedence to use the designation Senior Counsel.

“Solicitors possess all of the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to become senior counsel, having already been granted the ‘rights of audience' allowing them to advocate in the courts since 1971,” said Ms O’Boyle.

“Solicitors are critical to the functioning of the courts system and the administration of justice and any solicitor who meets the criteria can and should apply for senior counsel. It is in the public interest that there is competition and choice of who can represent litigants in the higher courts. Acting as senior counsel, solicitors will be able to offer a new perspective to the role,” she said.

The historic change was first signed into legislation in 2015 under the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) Act 2015. Under the Act, the designation of senior counsel may be granted to legal practitioners who have, in their practice as a legal practitioner, displayed a degree of competence and a degree of probity appropriate to and consistent with the grant to him or her of a patent, professional independence. Among other factors, the candidate should also display one of the following: a proven capacity for excellence in the practice of advocacy, specialist litigation or specialist knowledge of an area of law.

“This change creates parity of esteem between both branches of the profession. The Law Society previously campaigned successfully for solicitors to be appointed as judges in all courts, including the High Court and Supreme Court. This change was introduced with the enactment of the Courts and Court Officers Act in 2002,” explained Ms O’Boyle

“I am pleased that the contributions and services of the solicitors’ profession are recognised and valued on par with our legal barrister colleagues. We will watch with great interest and provide support and encouragement to the first solicitor that is appointed as senior counsel. It is an exciting time in Ireland’s legal history.”

“Time will tell how many solicitors will apply for the right to use the title of senior counsel but, of course, a solicitor who becomes a senior counsel will remain a solicitor,” she added

For more information on the criteria for Senior Counsel see: Advisory Committee on the Grant of Patents of Precedence.

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