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Magic circle lawyers register in Ireland ahead of EU referendum

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With the EU referendum less than a week away, City outfits quietly ready themselves for possible exit

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A number of top City firms are taking steps to register their lawyers in the Republic of Ireland as fears mount over the UK exiting the EU.

It has emerged today that UK qualified lawyers at Freshfields, Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy and Hogan Lovells are applying to join the roll of solicitors in the Republic of Ireland.

The proactive step, taken by a number of senior EU and competition lawyers, is due to possible practice restrictions they might face if the UK votes leave next Thursday.

According to Legal Week (£), elite magic circle outfit Slaughter and May has already given one of its top Brussels-based competition lawyers the green light to make the move, “funding” both his admission onto the Irish roll and a valid Irish practising certificate.

With concerns that the UK will no longer be an EU registered country, other firms have taken similar precautionary steps.

According to the report, “some” Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Hogan Lovells lawyers — at both associate and partner level — have also kicked off the process that will see them become Irish lawyers. And with a one-off registration fee of £237 and annual up-keep expenditure of around £1,600, the costs involved are a drop in the ocean compared to City law firm budgets.

With a number of Ashurst lawyers also mulling the move, uncertainty about the legal landscape post-Brexit appears to be the major trigger. With concerns over practice restrictions cited by many lawyers, some EU specialists have gone as far as suggesting the law relating to privileged communications could “cease”, leaving sensitive client information exposed.

Brussels-based Slaughter and May partner John Boyce, speaking to Legal Week said:

These possible concerns are relevant not just in Brussels but also to lawyers practising EU law in London. I know we’ve got one lawyer from Northern Ireland who has already been admitted to the roll.

Meanwhile ‘Lawyers — In for Britain’ campaigner and Freshfields partner Andrew Renshaw added:

To put it at its simplest: if you want to get on an aeroplane out of London and go and give legal advice in an EU jurisdiction there may be issues as to your ability to do that. It will all depend on what gets negotiated. I am sure the majority of UK competition partners and associates are looking into it. Most of the English partners at law firms that I know of in Brussels (including myself) are definitely looking at it.