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Irish Lawyers in London now slower at returning home

In a candidate short Irish legal market where law firms are crying out for talent, Keane McDonald went to London, ready to welcome Irish lawyers queuing down the street in a bid to return home with Brexit looming. To our surprise that was not the case. Anyone who had a worry about Brexit has already made their move. The lawyers who are in London now are settled and content. They are basing their potential move home to Ireland on being closer to family and to have a better work life balance.

There are a lot of Irish lawyers in London, many gaining outstanding experience in magic circle, or top US firms. This experience is highly sought after by Irish top tier. Areas like Corporate, Funds, FS Regulatory, Capital Markets and Real Estate are in high demand and lawyers in this space should be able to secure multiple offers from Irish firms if they return to Dublin.

Big deals are done in Dublin nowadays and some Irish lawyers abroad underestimate the high quality of work that is undertaken by Irish law firms. Moving back to Ireland does not mean a reduction in deals or quality of work. It is well known that top tier trained Irish lawyers are highly regarded in the London market by magic circle and other top firms. One particular firm we met with runs road shows in Dublin regularly, in a bid to attract top lawyers.

Lawyers in London enjoy firms that embrace and welcome flexibility and agile working which is much more advanced in the London practice market than in Ireland. It is part of law firms’ DNA at this stage in the London market and they live and breathe it in a relaxed and organised way. One firm shared that they have flexible working which means that people can work from home one day per week in a pre-agreed manner. Their agile working enables people at short notice work from home if they need to for a personal reason like the plumber calling. Firms in Dublin are starting to follow suit, but it is taking time.

Lawyers do seek a better work life balance and believe Irish firms can offer this. The average billable hours target in London is around 1700, with Ireland being ca 1600. Exception to this rule are the US firms, working long hours and often weekends, but they compensate by paying very high salaries. The UK firms struggle to keep hold of talent and lose a number of lawyers to these firms with deep wallets. But burnout rate is high and when these lawyers decide to exit they often long for an in-house role. However, the demand for these roles far exceeds the supply in Ireland.

Money will always be a challenge for Irish firms in attracting lawyers back to Dublin. An NQ in a Magic Circle firm earns £83,000 while Top Tier in Dublin offer €68,000 and these rise to a 4-year PQE Senior Associate earning ca £117,000 compared to Dublin at ca €85,000. This continues to rise as you progress to Partner and beyond.

So in conclusion, it seems like the flurry of Irish lawyers returning home due to Brexit has calmed and it is back to normal times (for now…). But the draw of family, outstanding schools and all-round a more sustainable pace of life will prevail and the Irish practice market will welcome lawyers with outstretched arms.


Keane McDonald is an executive legal recruitment firm focusing on legal appointments. We specialise in the recruitment of legal professionals for private practice clients and in-house legal departments located in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. We source lawyers at all ranks from recently qualified up to Partner and Board level. With our bespoke approach to each client and candidate, we endeavour to deliver a first class solution always.

Please contact Mia Barry in confidence at or call on +353876021890


A Lawyers Guide on Relocating to Ireland