Record-breaking numbers of solicitors from the UK have been admitted to practise in the Republic of Ireland this year as firms make contingency plans ahead of Thursday's referendum vote.

The Law Society of Ireland revealed today that so far this year 186 solicitors from the UK have been admitted to practise in the republic - more than three times the total at this stage last year. The vast majority of these solicitors have cited the possibility of the UK’s exit from the EU as their primary reason for seeking admission in Ireland.

Under a reciprocal agreement dating from 1989, England and Wales-qualified solicitors are exempt from the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test when applying to practise in Ireland. The fee for a certificate of admission is €300. 

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, said that most of the solicitors registering in Dublin are EU and competition law specialists making contingency plans in the event of Brexit. 'The right to argue before EU tribunals such as the Court of Justice of the European Union is only afforded to lawyers qualified in an EU state,' he said.

Ireland is the logical choice, he said. 'Of the EU member states, Ireland is the legal jurisdiction most equivalent to the UK. We are both English-speaking, both common law jurisdictions and our legal institutions are much the same.'

The majority of solicitors gaining admission in Ireland expect to continue to practise in London or Brussels rather than set up physically in Ireland, he said. 'There are several dozen applications that are still being processed so the number of transferring solicitors from the UK is expected to increase further before the referendum on 23 June. Depending on the result of the referendum, these applications may continue to rise.'

In 2015 the total number of UK solicitors transferring to Ireland was 101, up from 51 in 2014. There were 15,196 solicitors on the roll in Ireland at the end of last year.