No exemption for Irish law graduates

MORE than 1,000 Irish law graduates, whose qualifications were called into question by a ruling of the High Court in Dublin, have had their position regularised by the Irish Law Society.

The High Court decided the law graduates were not entitled to be exempt from the entrance exam to the society's training course for solicitors, which other graduates have to sit.

The exemption has operated for the past five years, but did not apply to law graduates from Belfast's Queen's University.

A group of Queen's graduates took the matter to the High Court, claiming they were discriminated against under European Union regulations.

The court rejected their claim, but ruled there should be no exemptions for anyone.

The decision provoked a storm of protest, led by the university law faculties and the graduates themselves.

It also raised doubts about the validity of the qualifications of those law graduates who had completed the solicitors' training course sitting the entrance exam. Many are already working as apprentice solicitors or as fully qualified members of the profession.

Following widespread concern, the society has now modified its regulations to validate retrospectively the qualifications of those who completed the training course over the past five years.

It has also restored the automatic right to exam exemption for law graduates from the republic's five universities for the five years up to the court ruling in September.

The society has also extended the exemption right to law graduates from Queen's over the same five-year period, but they will still have to sit an exam in Irish constitutional law, which is not part of their degree course.

The Queen's law graduates, left with a £300,000 costs bill as a result of their failed action, are now appealing to the Irish Supreme Court.