Thirty five final year law students at Queen's University, Belfast, claim they are being discriminated against by the Law Society of Ireland .
The students have taken action in the Irish High Court, Dublin, alleging the society refuses to recognise a Queen's law degree and insists they take a further exam before practising in the Republic.
Their counsel, Dr John White, told judge Ms Justice Mary Laffoy that graduates could be accepted as a barrister in the Republic but not as a solicitor and that after litigation six years ago the law society was obliged to recognise degrees from the Republic's universities.
But he said the society refused to extend that recognition to graduates from Queen's forcing them to sit an eight-part final society entrance examination. The society recognised the Queen's law degree, White claimed, only to exempt graduates from the preliminary examinations.
He said there had been "active negotiation" for over two years on recognition for the degree, but claimed the society refused to recognise it because of pressure of numbers from the Irish Republic.
In its defence, the society denied it was a professional protection organisation. It also argued that those with a law degree from Queen's had not received education in the law of the Republic.
The society also claimed its final exam was not a requirement for admission to training but the first part of a final examination for those seeking to be admitted as solicitors.