Lawyers in Ireland

Lawyers in Ireland

Legal Professionals

Types of Lawyer

As in other common law jurisdictions the legal profession is divided into two branches, solicitors and barristers, with the judiciary being appointed from practising members of the profession.

Solicitors

Solicitors are normally the first point of contact for individuals or organisations seeking legal advice.

The solicitors’ profession is regulated by statute (the Solicitors Acts 1954 – 1994).

The Law Society of Ireland is the professional body of solicitors and is responsible for their education and training under delegated statutory powers.

Solicitors are normally self employed as sole practitioners or join in partnership with other solicitors. There are more than 6,000 practising solicitors (November 1996).

More information:

  • Rights of audience: A solicitor is a general law agent dealing with both litigious and non-litigious matters. A solicitor has rights of audience in all courts.
  • Language: Legal proceedings can be conducted in either English or Irish. Cases are conducted through the medium of Irish only infrequently. See Examinations in the Irish language below.
  • There are normally three elements to the legal education and training of solicitors: UNIVERSITY, PROFESSIONAL COURSE and APPRENTICESHIP. See below. See also a description of the stages of training to become a solicitor below.

Barristers

Barristers are specialist pleaders who also give expert advice on legal matters.

In general clients can only approach them through a solicitor.

The body responsible for the education and training of barristers is the Honorable Society of King’s Inns.

Successful students are admitted to the degree of Barrister-at-Law by the Benchers of the Society and called to the Bar by the Chief Justice.

Those wishing to practise at the Bar must do so as members of the Law Library submitting to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the General Council of the Bar of Ireland in addition to the general disciplinary jurisdiction of the Benchers.

SENIOR COUNSEL: this is the title given to a barrister who has been given a patent of precedence by the Government and called within the Bar by the Chief Justice.

More information:

  • Rights of audience: Barristers have rights of audience in all courts.
  • Language: Legal proceedings can be conducted in either English or Irish. Cases are conducted through the medium of Irish only infrequently. See Examinations in the Irish language below.
  • There are normally three elements to the legal education and training of barristers: UNIVERSITY, PROFESSIONAL COURSE and PUPILLAGE. See below.

Bailiffs

Information about Bailiffs in the European countries is provided here.

Notaries

They authenticate important documents especially for use abroad. Applicants must be qualified solicitors and are appointed by the Chief Justice. Information about Notaries in the European countries is provided here.

Other Issues

Mobility

Applicants should apply to the Law Society or King’s Inn for an official application form. The relevant competent authorities will consider applicants who are lawyers in their state of origin.

Solicitors from England and Wales and Northern Ireland are normally exempt from the aptitude test.

Would-be barristers will have to take an aptitude test, the extent of which is determined by the Council of King’s Inn on a case by case basis. The test must be sat within two years of the decision, in one sitting. Applicants must also keep two terms “Commons”. This means they must take dinner at least eight times (see rule 13 of the rules of the Honourable Society of King’s Inns).

In relation to barristers from England and Wales, members of the English Bar of four years standing can be admitted without passing the aptitude test under Rule 17 (as amended by Amendment 2). As regard barristers from Northern Ireland, members of the Northern Irish Bar of three years standing can be admitted without passing the aptitude test under Rule 16.

Legal Education

Most entrants to the legal professions are university graduates in law. A student may obtain law degree at any one of the tertiary educational establishments. For the King’s Inn law graduate applicants must have an approved university degree in law (html) including passes in six compulsory subjects:

  • Land law (including the law of succession)
  • Equity
  • Law of contract
  • Criminal law
  • Jurisprudence
  • Law of the European Union

Non-Law Graduate and non-graduate entry

Educational stage: Entry to the profession of solicitor is open to non-graduates as follows:

  • Law clerks who have served not less than five years in a solicitor’s office and have passed the Diploma in Legal Studies.
  • Holders of a Diploma in Legal Studies or equivalent (available from The Dublin Institute of Technology) who must then pass the Preliminary Exam.
  • Those who do not hold university degrees but who have passed the Irish Law Society’s preliminary examination. This is an arts degree type examination available only to students aged 21 and over.
  • All applicants other than graduates in law from an Irish university (who will graduate in the next two years) have first to pass the Law Society’s entrance examination in law (the Final Examination—First Part). Some recent legal cases (Bloomer and Abrahamson) have caused the withdrawal of the exemption for those holding Irish (Republic of Ireland) law degrees for those joining law courses after the 1995-1996 academic year.

For barristers, non-Law degree graduates entrants to the Bar must pass the Diploma in Legal Studies Examination (of the Honorable Society of King’s Inns).

Law Society: Final Exam Part One

All applicants other than graduates in law from an Irish university have first to pass the Law Society’s entrance examination in law (the Final Examination—First Part).

This examination is in six core subjects:

  • Contract
  • Tort
  • Real property (including trusts and much of equity)
  • Constitutional law
  • Company law
  • Criminal law

Examinations in the Irish language

Main rules:

  • Solicitors: Apprentices are required to pass a first examination in the Irish language before entering into indentures of apprenticeship. Before admission applicants (other than members of Bars of foreign jurisdictions who are admitted under reciprocal arrangements and under the European Directive 89/48) must also pass a second examination in the Irish language. This examination is designed to ensure that persons who pass it have a competent knowledge of the Irish language. ie such a degree of oral and written proficiency in the use of the language as is sufficient to enable a solicitor efficiently to receive instructions, advise clients, examine witnesses and follow proceedings in the Irish language.
  • Barristers (other than members of Bars of foreign jurisdictions who are admitted under reciprocal arrangements and under the European Directive 89/48) are required to have a knowledge of the Irish language practitioners (Qualification) Act 1929.

Legal Training for Barristers

The Barrister-at-Law degree is a one-year full time course with competitive entry for those eligible by examination in five subjects:

  • Law of Tort
  • Criminal law
  • Company law
  • Law of evidence
  • Irish constitutional law

Having passed the Degree of Barrister-at-Law, students can becalled to the Bar of Ireland by the Chief Justice and are then eligible to join the Law Library. Those who wish to practice law must undertake a one year pupillage (see in this entry, below).

Legal Training for solicitors

After completing the academic stage of training, students then join the admission programme of the Irish Law Society which comprises the following four elements:

  • A period of not less than three months spent by the apprentice in a solicitor’s office when the apprentice is introduced to the work of a solicitor. This is currently not compulsory (1994 Act ).
  • A full time legal practice training course, comprising 55 teaching days and five study days, known as the Professional Course, in which the student becomes familiar with the skills of, and the tasks commonly undertaken by, solicitors in the first two years of their professional lives as practitioners.
  • 18 months full time training as an apprentice.
  • Six weeks further attendance at a practical training course known as the Advanced Course.

More information:

  • Professional Course: A practical legal training course in which instruction is given almost exclusively by practising solicitors in a learning-by-doing mode with the objectives of each course module, each day and each exercise quoted in behavioural terms and the achievement of the learning objectives tested by a system of continuous assessment.
  • Apprenticeship: The periods of in-office training for apprentices are monitored by the Irish Law Society which requires that each apprentice should have experience in at least civil litigation, conveyancing and probate/administration of estates.

Pupillage

A student who wishes to practise at the Bar can only do so on becoming a member of the Law Library. He must go into pupillage for a year with a practising barrister of not less than five years’ standing.

Governing Bodies

The Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, and the Honourable Society of Kings Inns.

Relevant Legislation

Author: J Lonbay

Lawyers in other European Countries

Resources

Notes

See Also

Further Reading

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