Great guest post by Jasper van Dooren, Legal Technologies Consultant, KrolLDiscovery
In 2012, four years before the EU referendum, Ireland already boasted a thriving legal sector. The total output of the legal services sector was $2.75bn, more than real estate activities, engineering, and financial services such as accounting, tax consultancy and audit.
With a ‘hard Brexit’ being the current UK government’s preferred outcome, the legal sector in Ireland is predicted to become even stronger, bolstered by global law firms whose clients still need to work within the framework of EU law, including GDPR.
Following the triggering of Article 50, the Law Society of Ireland reported that the number of UK lawyers registering in Ireland had increased by 275%. Lawyers registered in Ireland retain access to the European Court of Justice, EU tribunals and other EU legal institutions. Registering as an Irish lawyer also ensures that legal privilege is unchanged.
Many international firms including global giants, Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer, have taken steps to register lawyers as a reassurance to their international clients who are worried about continuity of service once Brexit is finalised.
But access to courts and retention of legal privilege are not the only drivers behind an Irish legal boom. The increased presence of prestigious clients is also a draw and other sectors potentially affected by Brexit have also marked Ireland as an alternative to the UK. Banks, in particular, have been vocal in naming Ireland as a potential location post-Brexit.
Combined with the impressive roster of global corporations such as Google and Apple who already call Ireland home, thanks in part to the region’s attractive corporation tax regimes, many firms will follow where their major clients lead. Indeed, international firms (such as Kennedys) have joined home-grown firms such as Arthur Cox in announcing plans to expand their operations within Ireland.
Finally, in terms of language, culture and common law legal system, Ireland is the closest EU member state to the UK. This makes the transition practical for firms and a more attractive option for lawyers, who might be reluctant to be relocated to a country where they don’t speak the language or need to adjust to working within a civil law system.
A boost to tech jobs?
These ripples of growth will also spread to ancillary legal service providers such ediscovery, document review and computer forensics services. Irish legal firms and their clients are already savvy users of legal technologies such as predictive coding, which uses machine learning to sift through and find documents that contain evidence in litigation and investigations.
However, the current Irish market for ediscovery technology is underdeveloped, with only the Big 4 and a few smaller vendors present. In order to meet demand from international firms and clients who routinely rely on the technology, it is likely that UK based vendors will also cross the Irish Sea.
Will Britain’s loss be Ireland’s gain?
Brexit presents a unique opportunity for Ireland and depending on just how acrimonious the divorce between the UK and the EU is, could result in a huge influx of legal, banking and professional services jobs to the region.