Thousands of solicitors who added their names to the Irish roll to preserve EU practising rights post-Brexit may not be eligible to practise in the way they had intended, it has emerged.

Since the Brexit vote three years ago, 2,722 solicitors from England and Wales have registered with the Law Society of Ireland, each paying a €300 administrative fee.

But a letter circulated in Dublin in March, days before the UK was due to leave the EU, states that solicitors may be issued with practising certificates only if they have an ‘establishment’ in Ireland and have taken out separate indemnity insurance.

The restrictions would mean that England and Wales solicitors would not be able to continue to enjoy EU practising rights merely by registering in Ireland. 

With a further 700 applications from England and Wales still being processed, the number of dual-registered solicitors had looked set to pass 3,000. One in seven ‘Irish’ solicitors are now believed to come from England and Wales.

In December 2017, Law Society of Ireland director general Ken Murphy said ‘Brexit refugee’ solicitors were enrolling but not arriving, and not applying to the Irish roll in order to establish practices there. He added it was primarily EU competition and trade law practitioners who had registered in Ireland.

Since the Brexit vote, several City firms have opened offices in Ireland, including Pinsent Masons, Fieldfisher, Simmons & Simmons, Lewis Silkin and – most recently – Clyde & Co.

The Law Society of Ireland is now expected to update firms and individuals on the status of their practising rights, and what hurdles – if any – they must clear to continue practising in the EU.

A spokesperson for the Law Society of England and Wales said it has been engaged in a ‘constructive dialogue’ with the Law Society of Ireland to confirm how Irish practising certificate holders can practise outside Ireland.