On the 7th of October 2019 the Minister for Justice and Equality signed the commencement order to commence Part 12 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 which relates to Patents of Precedence.

Section 172 of the 2015 Act requires the Legal Services Regulatory Authority to establish an Advisory Committee on the grant of Patents of Precedence.

Once the Committee has been fully established both barristers and solicitors will be able to apply for grant of a Patent of Precedence.

In relation to a barrister, the grant of a patent of precedence entitles the barrister to be called to the Inner Bar and to use the title of “Senior Counsel”. In relation to a solicitor the grant of a patent of precedence entitles the solicitor to use the title of “Senior Counsel”.

The Advisory Committee on the grant of Patents of Precedence will consist of:

(a) The Chief Justice (Chairperson of the Committee)

(b) The President of the Court of Appeal

(c) The President of the High Court

(d) The Attorney General

(e) The Chairperson of the Bar Council

(f)  The President of the Law Society and

(g) A lay member of the Authority nominated by the Minister.

Following the establishment of the Advisory Committee, the Committee will meet to establish criteria based on the objectives set out in s.173(2) of the Act to be met by a legal practitioner in order for a recommendation to be made by the Committee to Government that a Patent be granted to him or her.

The objectives set out in section 173(2) state that the Committee shall ensure that any legal practitioner seeking to have a Patent granted to him or her:

 (a) has, in his or her practice as a legal practitioner, displayed—

(i) a degree of competence and a degree of probity appropriate to and consistent

with the grant to him or her of a Patent,

(ii) professional independence, and

(iii) one or more of the following:

(I) a proven capacity for excellence in the practice of advocacy;

(II) a proven capacity for excellence in the practice of specialist litigation; or

(III) specialist knowledge of an area of law;

(b) is suitable on grounds of character and temperament;

(c) is in possession of a tax clearance certificate that is in force;

(d) is otherwise suitable to be granted a Patent.

An application form for legal practitioners who wish to apply to be granted a Patent will be available on the LSRA website in early 2020 following the first meeting of the new Committee. A deadline for submission of the applications will also be set that allows potential applicants sufficient time to prepare and submit their application.

It is proposed that that Advisory Committee shall consider applications in the Spring of 2020 with a view that the recommendations be made to the Government in relation to the grant of patents of precedence shortly thereafter.