Paul Gallagher has been practising at the Irish Bar for 39 years. He was appointed a Senior Counsel in 1991 and a bencher of the King’s Inns in 2005. He was Attorney General of Ireland between 2007 and 2011 and is a former vice chair of the Irish Bar Council. He has lectured and tutored in law at University College Dublin (UCD) and the King’s Inns, and lectures and writes on a range of legal issues. He has degrees in law (UCD, King’s Inns, Cambridge University) and in history and economics (UCD). He practises widely in the areas of commercial law, European law and public law.
Describe your career to date.
I qualified as a barrister in 1976 but pursued further studies for three years and started practice in 1979. In those days young barristers accepted work in every area of the law, and as a junior counsel, I was involved in criminal prosecution work and litigation in the areas of commercial law, public law (constitutional and administrative), European law, competition law, land law and personal injuries.
I became a Senior Counsel in 1991 and engaged in general litigation for another four or five years. After that I increasingly specialised in litigation in the areas of commercial law, public law (constitutional and administrative) and European law.
In 2007, I was asked by the government of the day to serve as attorney general. In Ireland, the attorney general is, pursuant to article 30 of the Constitution, the adviser of the government in matters of law and legal opinion. The attorney general advises the government in all legal matters (with the exception of criminal prosecutions, which are the responsibility of the director of public prosecutions), including the preparation of legislation. I continued as attorney general until March 2011. My period as attorney general coincided with Ireland’s devastating financial crisis and I was involved in all aspects of the legal response to that crisis. In March 2011, I returned to practice at the Bar and continued to focus on commercial law, public law and European law litigation as well as arbitration in those areas. Approximately 90 per cent of my time is devoted to trial work.
What first attracted you to a career as a barrister?
Since my early teens, I have been fascinated by the law, in particular by advocacy. The Bar provided an opportunity to specialise in advocacy.
How has litigation changed since you started practising?
The volume and intensity of litigation has altered immensely since 1979. Litigation is increasingly specialised and it has become much more international in subject matter. The increasing complexity of law and society is reflected in the increasing complexity of litigation. This has resulted in many trials lasting much longer (notwithstanding the assistance of technology). The need of commercial clients for a speedy resolution of disputes, whether through a court’s determination or by agreement, has transformed clients’ service expectations and greatly increased the pressures on litigators.
You also act for clients in arbitrations. How does your preparation for this type of dispute resolution differ from litigation?
The substance of preparatory work in terms of preparing witnesses and submissions is very similar to litigation, with one qualification. In arbitration, there is greater emphasis on written submissions and stricter time limits for oral evidence on the respective parties. Arbitrators increasingly impose time limits on the oral evidence or allocate specific time frames to the respective parties within which opening submissions and evidence must be completed. This imposes significant additional pressure to focus and distil the evidence and submissions but it has the significant benefit of limiting costs and assisting in the speedy resolution of the dispute.
What effect is technology having on the way that litigation is practised?
Technology enables vast amounts of documentation to be assessed for relevance, assembled coherently and presented in the most effective manner to the judge or arbitrator. If properly used, technology offers the significant advantage of providing a very efficient platform for effective communication between the team of lawyers working on a case and enables work-product from the team to be channelled most effectively for use in the examination of witnesses and in the preparation of legal submissions. Technology also confers the opportunity to reduce significantly trial time.
EU legislation has increasing reach but sometimes lacks legal clarity. What impact is this having on clients?
The lack of clarity of EU legislation presents a continuing and very real problem for clients and lawyers. Legal clarity is an essential part of the rule of law. It is necessary that citizens know the legal rules which impose obligations or confer rights. Lack of clarity gives rise to considerable uncertainty with regard to the meaning of legislative provisions and consequently, particularly in specialist areas, such as financial regulation, creates unnecessary uncertainty with regard to the legal position on important issues. Very often a decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union is essential to bring clarity to the legal position. This makes it very difficult for the client to make decisions on what is required of them in order to comply with their regulatory obligations.
What issues should businesses be most aware of as they make their preparations for Brexit?
Brexit may affect contractual obligations under existing contracts and, in particular, the ability (or indeed obligation) to continue to perform the same. For businesses in EU Member States, issues arise as to the extent to which they can avail, in providing services to their customers, of agency or other services from unregulated UK businesses.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career as a litigator?
A career as a litigator is immensely rewarding. It does, however, require singular dedication, concentration and an ability to cope with enormous pressure on a daily basis. Hard work and judgement are essential, as is an ability to develop one’s legal skills over time to meet the demands of a constantly changing litigation landscape.
Paul Gallagher SC is “one of the very best” litigators in the country, commend sources who consider him the “go-to senior counsel” thanks to his “responsive and strategic” approach.
Paul Gallagher has been practising at the Irish Bar for 40 years. He was appointed a senior counsel in 1991 and a bencher of the King’s Inns in 2005. He is a former vice chair of the Irish Bar Council. He has lectured and tutored in law at University College Dublin (UCD) and the King’s Inns, and lectures and writes extensively on a range of legal issues.
He has degrees in law (UCD, King’s Inns, Cambridge University), and in history and economics (UCD). He practises extensively in the areas of commercial law, European law and public law.
He is an adjunct professor of law at UCD, and a fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers.
He was Ireland’s nominee to the arbitration and conciliation panels of the International Centre of Settlement of Investment Disputes (1997–2007). He served as an observer on the high-level advisory group for the Future EU Justice Policy 2007–2008 representing the UK, Cyprus and Malta.
He is a director of the Irish Centre for European Law and a senior fellow of the Institute for International and European Affairs.
Paul Gallagher was attorney general of Ireland between 2007 and 2011, and during that period he had responsibility for advising the government on all legal issues and was responsible for the conduct of all litigation involving the state. He was responsible for all legislation passed during that period and was deeply involved in all legal aspects of the financial crisis.