Guest Feature

Growing career opportunities for solicitors in the Irish market

By Business & Finance
28 November 2019

Since the Brexit Referendum Dublin has emerged as a location for many leading UK and US global leading law firms, writes Jean Heylin.

For any solicitor coming home for Christmas or considering Ireland as a potential location to work, there is now more choice than ever before to work for an Irish or international law firm. The scale and variety of work compounded by Brexit related inbound work has been compelling for many who were perhaps on the fence, to now consider seriously Ireland for their next career move.   

We share an interesting snapshot of growth of the legal market in Ireland, the steps you need to follow to practice in Ireland and the best way to explore new career opportunities over here.   

Brexit boost

According to the Law Society of Ireland, the number of solicitors in Ireland reached a very significant milestone earlier this year: the 20,000th name was added to the Roll of Irish Solicitors (in June 2019, 20,531 names were registered on the Roll of Irish Solicitors, with 11,618 practising certificates). While the number of solicitors is expanding domestically, this landmark number  is due to the huge number of England & Wales solicitors who are seeking and gaining admission to the Roll as part of their Brexit planning and ensuring they have their own hedging plan and necessary paper work in in place. To put this into context, the Law Society of Ireland, said its solicitors’ roll had received more than 31 times the average annual rate in the years before the Brexit Referendum.

Since the Brexit Referendum in 2016, Dublin has emerged as a location for many leading UK and US global leading law firms. Some notable entrants include Fieldfisher, DLA Piper, Clark Hill, Simmons & Simmons, Lewis Silkin, Eversheds, Tully Rinckey, Pincent Masons and Covington & Burling. Some of the reasons these large firms have sought to establish a presence here include the fact that once Britain leaves the EU,  Ireland will be the largest common law jurisdiction in the EU and Ireland will be the only English speaking country in the EU combined with the precedence of Ireland  having a strong global reputation for creating and scaling effective centre of excellence hubs. Since June 2016, many of the law firms’ financial services clients have shifted their operations out of Britain, some €1.1 trillion in assets and 7,000 jobs have been relocated outside of Britain. Dublin remains the most popular choice for financial services and professional services companies to relocate post-Brexit followed by Luxembourg.

Practicing in Ireland

In order for international solicitors to practice in Ireland, you need to gain admission to the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland. The process is straightforward for England and Wales or Northern Ireland qualified solicitors. It involves an application for a Certificate of Admission from the Law Society of Ireland and a payment of a fee. The end to end process tends to take 2 weeks. For other internationally based and practising solicitors other than those listed above you need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility, sit and pass the conversion test (QLTT) and obtain a Certificate of Admission to the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland. Once you secure a job in Ireland, most of the law firms will help you navigate these steps. Detailed information can be found on the Law Society website.

Here in Brightwater Executive, having successfully introduced a number of Partners and Senior Associates in 2019 who relocated to Ireland to work in private practice, we recommend doing the following: As a starting point, we strongly encourage a confidential consultation to discuss in detail your resume, key crossovers and key USPs you bring to the current market and to the evolving service offerings of establishing and newly competing firms. Together, we agree upon a succinct list of key firms to discreetly approach and position your confidential profile with. Many opportunities aren’t advertised openly so to be the eyes and ears of what’s happening with firm’s hiring strategies is key, and to partner with the right search firm to do this is more important than ever. The majority of our clients will pay for flights to come to Ireland for your interview. As standard there tends to be 3-6 interviews, depending on the firm partnership structure. As an additional incentive, some law firms may offer a combination of re-location allowances, sign on bonuses, guaranteed bonuses and accommodation cover for the first 2 – 4 months.   

Growth areas

We work with the majority of the top tier, mid- tier and boutique law firms and there has been a particular spike of increased hiring within firms looking to expand their offering in: Corporate Services (M&A), Banking, Funds, Private Equity & Real Estate. In addition to current openings many of our clients are open to seeing profiles of strong candidates in other practice areas e.g. Employment, Litigation, Aviation etc. For those who feel they’d like the explore in house legal counsel roles, the opportunities at VP, Director level are steady.

Naturally, many partners based in Dublin who are interested in exploring the market are often reluctant to reach out directly to competing firms, confidentiality is one thing but being time poor is another, people are busy staying on top of their day to day roles, let alone being able to afford the time to manage a market map of where and who they should be discretely having exploratory discussions. The importance to aligning yourself with a reputable and discreet search firm with connections at the tops level of decision makers is key to be successful in bridging this gap and positioning the above.


About the author: Jean Heylin is a Partner at Brightwater Executive, a specialist division of the Brightwater Group, focusing on executive and senior management assignments. Jean has years of experience working with well-known Irish and international stockbrokers and property developers. She recruits for C-suite, non-exec directors and Senior management level hires within financial services specialising in banking, stockbroking and legal.