The Irish legal and civil litigation systems are broadly similar to that in the United Kingdom. The legal profession comprises solicitors and barristers.
Solicitors may not incorporate in Ireland. Solicitors are either sole practitioners or more commonly, firms comprising partners. Provision for limited liability partnership has been made in law, which is expected to be commenced into operation in the next year or so.
The solicitor’s role in litigation in Ireland is similar to that in England. The solicitor manages the case from the initial taking of instructions from the client, assembling evidence, preparing witness statements and managing the issue of pre-trial motions and the administrative aspects of the case. Solicitors usually instruct barristers in cases in the higher courts, to act in the preparation of pleadings, advising on the merits of the case, preparing for trial and undertaking advocacy at the trial.
The solicitor maintains an office with staff and infrastructure to run cases. As in the United Kingdom, firms of solicitors may have very substantial staff, multiple departments specialising in different areas. Most larger firms have a significant litigation and dispute resolution department comprising solicitors who undertake litigation and dispute resolution on a full-time basis. Most smaller firms undertake litigation and dispute resolution work.
Solicitors may undertake advocacy in the lower courts and may undertake some pre-trial steps in civil litigation in the higher courts in some cases.
Barristers specialise in advocacy before the higher courts. Barristers cannot act in a partnership or incorporate. Their role is almost identical to that of a barrister in England and Wales. Except in limited circumstances, barristers act only when instructed by a solicitor.
In more complex cases Junior Counsel and Senior Counsel are instructed to act at trial. The Senior Counsel typically reviews and finalises the key advice and pleadings/court documents drafted by Junior Counsel. Junior counsel may undertake the pre-trial steps and some of the advocacy at trial. The Senior Counsel leads in the trial and may deal with the more complex issues that arise.