I will be happy to move to the question and answer stage after I make a few opening remarks. The commitment of the Law Society of Ireland to the European Union is unstinting. My colleague, Mr. Ó Culáin, acts as the secretary to the Irish delegation to the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, which is known as the CCBE. He works to support the Irish delegation at the CCBE, which I will describe in more detail in a moment. My background is in European law and competition law practice. Thirty years ago, I lived and worked in Brussels for approximately four years when I was a partner in an Irish commercial law firm, A & L Goodbody. This was my area of practice. My personal commitment to matters relating to the EU goes back many decades. The context for this whole discussion is Brexit. It seems likely that within a short number of months, the UK will have withdrawn from the EU and the consequences of that will have to be faced in Ireland.
I would like to say a little about the solicitor profession in Ireland, which the Law Society of Ireland represents and in large measure still regulates. There are almost 20,000 names on the roll of solicitors in Ireland. Approximately 11,350 solicitors have an Irish practising certificate, which is the annual licence granted by the society and required by law in order to deliver legal services in the State. I will give a breakdown of the body of practising solicitors. Approximately 52% of them are women. This change in the composition of the profession may surprise people. Almost half of them are under 40 years of age. The profession is continuing to expand. Solicitors in general practice offer legal services in every community, town and village in the country where firms of solicitors offer services to the public and provide access to justice. We often say that access to justice in Ireland is through the doors of solicitors' offices. The majority of practitioners in the profession are concentrated in the greater Dublin area. The profile of the profession in the city is characterised by large commercial law firms with an international orientation. My former firm opened an office in Brussels over 30 years and had an office in New York ten years before that. There is a very international orientation in support of the international businesses that operate from and into Ireland. Those solicitors' firms play a role in foreign direct investment, for example.
Brexit and EU matters are of great importance and relevance to us. Every solicitor is required to have a very high level of knowledge of EU law as a subject before he or she can go on the roll as a solicitor. In our engagement with Europe, we see ourselves as part of Europe and we do not see Europe as something that is "over there". The professional bodies - the Law Society of Ireland and the Bar of Ireland, which represents barristers - engage primarily at European level through the CCBE, which has been in existence since 1960. The CCBE is recognised by the all of the European institutions - the European Parliament, the Commission, the Council and the European courts - as the voice of the legal profession in Europe. That is the manner in which the entire legal profession in Europe - according to some calculations, there are more than 1 million lawyers across the Union - interacts with the European institutions. The countries from which the CCBE draws its membership are wider than the member states of the EU. Norway, Switzerland and other non-EU countries participate in the CCBE. In a few years' time, the current third vice-president of the CCBE, James McGuill from Dundalk, will be the second Irish solicitor to become president of the CCBE. The manner in which the CCBE operates through its various committees mirrors the various activities of the committees of the European Parliament and the Council. The CCBE monitors, participates in and makes submissions on everything on which the legal profession has a valued submission to make. This highly active organisation, which is based in Brussels, has its own professional secretariat. Through that forum, the legal profession throughout Europe engages directly with the European political and legal institutions.
As I said, the context for this entire debate is the pending withdrawal of the UK from its membership of the EU. There has been a mutual recognition of qualifications regime between the different jurisdictions in these islands on the basis of a number of EU directives, including the services directive and the establishment directive. The regulations made under the 1989 mutual recognition of qualifications directive have facilitated ease of transfer whereby a solicitor who is qualified in this jurisdiction can very easily, through an administrative process, become a solicitor on the roll in England and Wales. Equally, solicitors in England and Wales can transfer onto the roll in this jurisdiction. The same applies in the case of Northern Ireland. There is a difference in the case of Scotland, which is a separate legal jurisdiction with a civil law background. The same regime does not exactly apply in the case of Scotland. Since the mutual recognition of qualifications regime was put in place in the early 1990s, many hundreds of Irish solicitors - we do not have an exact number - have transferred and taken out an additional membership on the roll of solicitors in England and Wales. I am on the roll of solicitors in England and Wales and the roll of solicitors in Northern Ireland. It is quite easily done. In the days of recession and bad economic times in Ireland, this ability to transfer to England and Wales was something of a safety valve to avoid unemployment of Irish solicitors. We view Ireland as a net exporter of solicitors. Irish solicitors are highly qualified, highly regarded and welcomed. Many of them work in large commercial law firms in London.
Since 23 June 2016, we have seen a different phenomenon. We have seen a flow of exchange across the Irish Sea from east to west. This was never really anticipated. By our standards, an astonishing number of solicitors from England and Wales have transferred onto the roll in this jurisdiction. They are perfectly legally entitled to do so. Indeed, they are welcome to do so. Up to 2015, an average of approximately 50 solicitors who were qualified to work in England and Wales transferred onto the roll here each year. Since that time, more than 3,000 solicitors in this category have transferred to the Irish roll of solicitors. As a result, approximately 15% of all the solicitors whose names are on the roll of solicitors in this jurisdiction are solicitors who are qualified to work in England and Wales and whose names have been entered onto the Irish roll since 1 January 2016.
Most of them represent very large global commercial law firms and they are concerned about EU practice possibilities post Brexit. What this will mean for them and whether they will have rights of audience in the Court of Justice of the European Union or enjoy legal privilege in EU investigations and so on remains to be seen. That is just a strange phenomenon that we have seen in recent years.
What I am signalling here is that we have a very integrated and internationally oriented legal profession in this jurisdiction with a particular focus on the European Union. The disruption Brexit will cause and its true consequences cannot yet be known. I refer to one other thing in terms of the fallout from Brexit on which the Bar Council and the Law Society engaged with the Government. It is the promotion of Ireland as a centre for international legal services. There is a possibility that there are opportunities to be gained by Ireland, the economy and the Irish legal process as a result of Brexit. London is one of the great legal centres of the world. London and New York are probably the two great centres for international legal work. One of them is on our doorstep. From 31 October next or possibly some date very soon thereafter, it appears that the United Kingdom will no longer be a member state of the European Union. That will leave Ireland as the only English-speaking common law country in the EU. It will actually be the only common law country in the EU while the law of international business is the common law, not the civil law system. Following Brexit and certainly in a no-deal scenario, the implementation or enforcement of judgments obtained in England and Wales in the rest of the EU will be open to doubt to say the very least. If even a small sliver of the legal and dispute resolution activity in particular that occurs in London were to be capable of being transferred to this jurisdiction, it could have a beneficial effect. It might be one of the few beneficial effects of Brexit for the Irish economy.
The Government has been open to this idea and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, has embraced it so much so that it is Government policy as of January 2019. I attended with other Law Society and Bar Council representatives, the Attorney General, Seamus Woulfe SC, and Chief Justice Frank Clarke in Washington DC as part of the Taoiseach's wider entourage around St. Patrick's Day this year. We sought to engage with the legal profession in the United States from which so much foreign direct investment emanates to begin a process of encouraging big businesses internationally to put dispute resolution clauses for Ireland rather than England and Wales in the relevant sections of their international contracts and agreements. This is a signal of the fact that the Law Society and legal profession in Ireland and the Government are not being passive in the face of Brexit. We see the possibility of opportunities for international legal practice to be gained although of course nobody knows what the consequences will be. Anyone who says that he or she knows for sure what the consequences of Brexit will be is likely to be misleading himself or herself and others. In setting this out, I have wanted to signal to the committee our positive engagement and continuing engagement over decades with the European Union. We are enthusiastic members of the European Union and the legal profession in Ireland stands ready to meet any opportunities as well as face any risks that may emerge from Brexit.