Maples sets up Irish in-house advocacy unit ahead of regulatory change

Maples and Calder is launching a dedicated in-house Irish advocacy team, ahead of changes to Irish legislation that are likely to open up High Court advocacy to the solicitors’ profession.

The advocacy service will be provided by a team of five Dublin associates, already working at Maples, who previously practised as barristers. The team will be led by Enda O’Keeffe, working alongside Eoin Morris, Nicholas Cole, Malachi Sweetman and Michael Kennedy.

Cole and Morris are both recent recruits, appointed for the advocacy team. Other qualified solicitor-advocates at the firm will also be involved.

Maples said the team would perform the role usually taken by junior barristers, and the initiative would avoid work being duplicated between solicitors and junior counsel.

The firm already provides a similar service to clients of its Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands litigation practices, where the distinction between solicitors and barristers is less strict.

The news comes ahead of the anticipated introduction of the Legal Services Regulation Bill, which was published in 2011 and is going through the legislative process. Among the bill’s proposals is a suggestion that High Court advocacy will no longer be the sole preserve of barristers (16 January 2012).

Maples will still use the bar where clients want to instruct counsel and in major commercial cases.

Dudley Solan, head of Maples’ Irish litigation team, said: “The Legal Services Regulation Bill is seeking to remove the sharp distinction between the two branches of the legal profession. It’s inevitable that there will be change. The thrust of this change will be to deliver efficient and more cost-effective litigation to consumers of legal services.”

Several UK firms, most notably Herbert Smith (22 September 2003, 21 March 2005), have set up in-house advocacy units with mixed success. However Maples’ move is believed to be a first for Ireland.