LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Your First Meeting with an experienced Divorce Lawyer

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https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ2sQbAo4ArmbpAuG3EGYjRRA76Mhc0U9ZiwN0cgrThPi8Qf-A72Q   Carol McGuinness Solicitor

 

What you should expect from an initial consultation with a Family Law Solicitor.

 

Divorce is a very stressful and difficult time for separating couples so instructing the right solicitor is key to ensuring the process might be a little easier for you.

After making an appointment with a solicitor, it is best to come prepared with regards to the details of your marriage i.e. date of marriage and date of separation and what your family’s financial position is. Also be prepared to inform your solicitor about your children; ages, dates of birth, addresses, if still attending school, activities and suchlike. If the solicitor requests certain financial documentation be sure to bring these along.

An experienced family law solicitor will also require details of the financial aspects of your case. You will need to provide full details regarding your assets, income, expenses and liabilities. Financial questions will also be asked to determine the level of support that a spouse and the children may require. If you are able to provide this information, an experienced solicitor will be able to advise you regarding a financial settlement reached or the likely division of assets.

You may have many questions regarding your divorce. Write these down prior to your visit and don’t be afraid to ask for answers. An experienced family law solicitor will be able to answer these questions for you.

Many are not aware of how solicitors charge for their services. You should be given detailed information and a cost estimate at the initial appointment. Establish how a solicitor is charging you i.e whether it will be an hourly rate or a fixed fee. Most solicitors will request a retainer by way of a lump sum up front. Be sure to ask whether it is possible to receive a monthly invoice so you are fully aware of your costs and the work charged at all stages of the divorce.

In summary, after the initial consultation, you should feel confident in your solicitor’s ability and that she/he has a full understanding of your circumstances and your needs. In addition, you should have a full understanding of the divorce process, the financial side, any children issues that you may have and what fees you will be expected to pay.

 

Carol McGuinness is Head of the Family Law Unit at Early & Baldwin Law Firm

27/28 Marino Mart, Fairview, Dublin 3,

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

October 12, 2017 at 6:34 pm

You Need Your Solicitor

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At Early & Baldwin we divide our work into three separate Departments. Personal Injuries, Family Law and Probate & Conveyancing. Over the years it has actually evolved that way due to our involvement with our clients and their needs. When I qualified in 1980 there was in general, the local solicitor who undertook all types of work. I had been a Director of The Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) so had been heavily involved in Family Law. I was in charge of the Ballymun Centre located in the basement of Padraic Pearse Tower, since demolished as part of the Ballymun Regeneration Scheme. Our clients, primarily the women of Ballymun with children, needed us when their husbands abandoned them. There was no civil legal aid available to people and FLAC stood in to help. Disgraceful situation people were in but sure this is Ireland, and it seems we’re used to it ! While they were tough times, it really was the first time in my life that I came face to face with such abject poverty and deprivation. A learning curve I would never forget. After qualifying, I did a lot of Family Law Cases and indeed, continue to do so today. I’ve recently engaged the services of Carol McGuinness, one of the best family lawyers around, to head up our Department.

 

Well then… Why did we open a Department dealing with Personal Injury Law?                In 1987 my law firm partner Kevin Early died. He was primarily involved in the Conveyancing and Probate work, while I looked after Litigation and indeed Family Law. With the introduction of lawyer advertising, which was not previously available, I saw an opportunity to change the direction of the firm from where we were, a general practice, to a more progressive model which could be developed to better meet the needs of our clients. I made it policy that we would not act for Banks, Insurance Companies or indeed large Corporations. I felt that as our clients were ordinary decent people that we owed it to them to act solely for them and not have any conflict of interest. Unlike some of Ireland’s ‘leading’ law firms which it appears, employ ‘Chinese Walls’ to enable them act for all sides !  But I digress.

 

We made some radio ads, employing Emmet Bergin to do the voice overs. He was the sexy Auctioneer in the RTE Sunday night soap Glenroe. The ads worked well and we established a Personal Injury Law Firm. This Firm took on the cases of the ‘little guy’. There was a great buzz in the Office. We all pulled together and engaged with our clients. We saw people at the lowest point in their lives having suffered in an accident. Many lost limbs or had disfiguring injuries.  We came into contact with mental health issues and depression. All of life flashed before us and we felt job satisfaction like never before.

 

All this continued for a number of years until our Government, after lobbying from the Insurance Industry, brought in PIAB, the Injuries Board to take our work away and take it out of the hands of lawyers. It seems they only felt that Big Corporates should avail of lawyers, not the man/woman in the street. Even the Law Society were not happy with our Firm. Their Director General personally told me that they ‘didn’t act for me’. Tough times followed but eventually the Courts pointed out the error of their ways to the Government who couldn’t Ban Lawyers from Personal Injury Cases. The injuries Board continues but we can take our cases to the Courts once we deal with the formalities, should it be appropriate.

Well, as a result, we now have a Personal Injury Department. Excellent people I work with and great clients as before.

 

LegalEagleStar , Wednesday 26th. July 2017.

 

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

July 26, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Will the Citizen have access to the legal profession? Not if the Big Corporations have any say about it!

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I qualified as a solicitor in 1980. I had no connections in law at all and if it wasn’t for the endeavours of my late father, I couldn’t have pursued my legal studies. He worked hard to provide me with an education and without him and the support of my mother, I’d never have succeeded.

For the previous couple of years or so before qualifying, I had been influenced by Inge Clissmann and Aedan McGovern, both barristers and now Senior Counsel. Inge had got me involved with FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres which was run by law students who represented in Court, members of the public who couldn’t afford access to justice. Inge introduced me to the Ballymun Centre located in the basement of Padraig Pearse Tower, long since demolished. There we mainly dealt with family law issues and quite simply, we were overrun with the work. Overrun and indeed overawed. It has left an indelible impression upon me to this day. With little or nothing, the parents we dealt with, raised their families in the most trying of circumstances. At the end of the night, after seeing all those needing help, Inge would insist we retired to the Towers Pub to have a drink, one drink, so as to encourage those we had met to see that we were no different from them and could empathise with them. She was all too aware that lawyers were thought of as elitist and she was doing her part in showing everyone that we were not. She also was teaching us students about our social responsibilities and would not tolerate any bullshit from us. She encouraged talk and discussion and left her mark on us. I subsequently took over as Director of FLAC in Ballymun some time later. They were hard times but certainly gave us law students a social conscience which remains with us to this day. All this happened before our Government were forced to bring in Civil Legal Aid. During my career I have had the pleasure to act for those who ‘couldn’t afford a lawyer’. Pro bono work as it is now referred to.

 

The other influence on my career was my late father. While he was one of the ‘bosses’ in British Railways he was a solid Trade Unionist. He was also a devoted Roman Catholic with a great social conscience. He worked hard to look after us but instilled in me an outlook where people came first. It’s probably because of his example, that at an early stage after qualifying,  I made a decision to not act for Banks or Insurance Companies because I could not identify with the Profit at the expense of People dictate. I found many of their dealings with people to be disgusting and abhorrent. To this day my attitude has not changed.

 

I was lucky enough to be practising when the Competition Authority actions enabled solicitors to advertise. I took out a full-page in Golden Pages, advertising my Personal Injury Law Firm as well as having regular adverts air on RTE Radio. My firm expanded and I must say, I was delighted with the pro-people stance we took. We were a plaintiff firm, never acting for the defendant Insurance Companies. We were attacking the anti-people establishment and winning. Many other firms followed suit and people were being represented on a no-win no-fee basis. What other way could people access the law? This continued, or should I say was allowed to continue for only a moment in time. The Law Society among other interested groups were unhappy and pressurised the Government into making changes. Subsequently PIAB was formed to be a ‘lawyer free zone’ and were mandated with looking after all the injury cases from now on. Thankfully after come Court cases it is no longer a ‘lawyer-free’ zone but the setting up of The ‘Injuries Board’ has depleted the work carried out by High Street Solicitors, whose clients were people, not corporations. At the same time, the Law Society tightened up their advertising regulations and I was personally instructed to not call Early & Baldwin a Personal Injury Law Firm as this was ‘encouraging’ claims. And we are to this day prohibited from advertising that personal injury law is what we do. All this was done by the State in the interests of injured people we were told. Do not believe a word of it. For once, the lawyers who acted for the working man and woman were bringing their cases to Court and accessing ‘Justice’ for them. The Insurance lobby is very powerful, not unlike the Banks. They have great influence over Government, unlike the citizen who has little or no influence.

 

Currently there is outrage regarding the amounts the Insurance Industry are charging for renewal of motor policies. Us lawyers are of course being blamed by the Industry but many commentators are challenging this assertion. Remember that cases were heard before Juries until Government was lobbied by the Insurers who said that people could not be trusted. Then we had cases heard by Judges alone. This continued until the Insurance Industry said that Judges were awarding too much. Judges were halted and the Injuries Board was put in place to replace them. Now it’s only possible for your case to be heard before a Judge, if you’ve rejected the award made by the Injuries Board. All this change has been lobbied for and achieved by the Insurance Industry for their own benefit, not for the citizen. In fact the changes in the law were designed to deny the citizen access to the law by taking the high street solicitor out of the equation. Meanwhile the Big Law Firms still represent the Insurance Industry is all their guises. All this ‘reform’ of the law should be taken with a grain of salt. What had been achieved by young enthusiastic lawyers in getting access to the law for the ordinary man and woman, has now in effect been severely curtailed. This is quite alarming, but maybe not surprising. With the Corporation Tax obscenities and the control of Government by the Bankers, this is the logical conclusion. In future, they would hope, that access to the law was not for the ordinary citizen but solely the preserve of Big Law for their corporate clientelle.

 

LegalEagleStar Friday , 23rd. September, 2016

 

 

 

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm

The Real Tom Baldwin (1916-2000)

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If my father had lived, he would have been 100 years old today. Sadly we lost him in January 2000 after a routine operation went wrong. While I was angry at the surgeon, I blamed myself as I should have noticed his health deteriorating sooner. That fact I will have to live with.

Thomas Patrick Baldwin was born on Sept 8th, 1916 in Broughton Street, Dundalk. His dad was another Tom Baldwin, a plumber who was well-respected around the town. His mother was Catherine McGuinness whose father was a local publican just across from the Town Hall. He was a ‘middle child’. Brothers Billy and Bernie. Sisters Margaret and Mary Bridget (sadly died a teenager).He was an accomplished young goalkeeper and defender for junior team Norton Villa and then later with another legendary local team St Patricks. He was also a lifetime supporter of Dundalk F.C. His brother Billy also played locally and was another decent player and a bit of a legend I’m told.

Dad went to the local Christian Brothers before working with the B&I at the port. There he met his life long pal Jimmy McLoughlin. They both headed off to Belfast to work with the LMS in York Road Station. My father was very popular with his co-workers except around the ‘Glorious 12th’ when the Loyalists would, as he termed it ‘go mad’ for the month of July. That said, it seems they trusted him more than ‘their own’ as they’d get him to put the money on the dogs in Dunmore Park. One said ‘I trust you Tom I wouldn’t trust them fellas.’ Always a source of amusement to my Dad. He also had a great friend in Belfast, Paddy Manning who is also sadly deceased.

After a few years in Belfast, a city he loved, he moved to Dublin to join British Railways in Westmoreland Street. The Union said his time in Belfast would be counted for pension purposes. It wasn’t when the time came. Dad was a proud active trade unionist. He was a member of the Irish Transport & General Workers Union, ITGWU. He also supported the Labour Party until he became disillusioned with them in later life. He said too many chancers were using the union to further their political careers.

Dad married my Mum Hilda Clarke of St Kevins Road, South Circular Road in 1952 when he was 36. He always laughed and said he was cut off in his prime ! They only had one child, me, although my Mum wanted a football team, but only got the goalkeeper.

Throughout his life, my father was involved in trade unionism. He instilled values of fairness in me. He was deeply religious and practiced what he preached. Even when he was a senior manager in Sealink (Brit Rail) he went on strike on a matter of principle. He saw no compromise being one of the bosses and an active union member. He’d laugh when Head Office would send in Management Consultants to suggest changes. He treated them as though they were there to shut the company down. As he’d say, what the hell do they know about this business. They’ve shut down more places. Needless to say The manager of Brit Rail got away with nothing when my Dad was around !

He held people to account when need be and wasn’t shy to speak up. Prior to Christmas 1999 he attended a function in Jurys, Ballsbridge celebrating 50 years membership of the union which was now SIPTU. He told me that during the meal he noticed that the Top Table were being served wine, while the rest were not. My father took Bill Attley (Union Head) aside and asked him did he know the first thing about trade unionism. One for all etc. Attley I’m told, was not amused but subsequently wine was served to all tables. My father loved a glass of wine with his meal but on principle refused a glass. I told this story at his funeral a couple of months later and several SIPTU members confirmed the story and were disgusted with the way things were handled and the condescending way my father was treated.

After retirement I was lucky enough to have my father’s help in managing my legal practice. He was very popular with all the staff although he brought some of them to task. One young lady told me that ‘if Mr Baldwin gives out to you then you deserve it.’ I don’t think I ever commanded the same respect as he did. Well, he was the ‘Real Tom Baldwin’.

Happy Birthday Dad. Mum will be 90 next week !!

 

LegalEagleStar , September 8th. 2016

Written by LegalEagleStar

September 8, 2016 at 9:31 pm

Shop Local

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In Ireland today, we are constantly being told that ‘The Recovery’ is happening. No longer are the dark days of The Troika, IMF upon us. Well, those that I work with and indeed our many clients don’t seem to be experiencing ‘The Recovery’. Of course we at Early & Baldwin do not act for Big Business nor corporate giants. That is by choice I can assure you ! We act for the man in the street, the local painter, electrician, carpenter, shopkeeper, chemist and suchlike. We know them personally. We know their children, take an interest in their education and achievements. That is who we are. We are this by choice. We decided over 30 Years ago that we would not act for any Banks or Insurance Companies. We found their principles to be immoral and profit centred and not people we wanted to be associated with. It was a brave choice. Many say foolhardy. We wanted to act for the ‘little guy’ suffering at the hands of the ‘Big Guys’. Maybe a little melodramatic but I think you get my drift. I got very angry a couple of years back while listening to Newstalk one morning and hearing a solicitor being interviewed about how the recession had affected his business. He came out with how he hadn’t suffered at all. All that happening was he started to take work from the Banks and he felt that he was now acting for a ‘better class of client’. I nearly crashed the car when I heard him.

These days our clients are from a wide geographic area but more and more we seem to be promoting our neighbours. They are the guys and gals we meet with on the street on a daily basis. Others live nearby and call in, so to speak ,whenever they need a bit of advice or suffered some injury. We’ve seen many purchase their family homes and most have gone on to have a family and work hard to pay the bills. Of course we are there when tragedy strikes and a loved one dies. To support the family at such a time is part of our business. Maybe the Big Corporate firms don’t act this way but we do. We know these people. They are our clients and our neighbours.

With the onset of the so-called ‘Recession’ and the immoral ‘bail-out’ of the Banks, many of these good people have been hit terribly by the cruel ‘Austerity’ policies pursued by our Governments. These people are suffering. Many who had good and what we called steady jobs, are now being hit with zero-hour contracts and other such abominations. People are suffering. Local businesses are suffering. No longer can people return home to spend quality time with their families without pressure from the banks and others chasing them for late or missed payments on their mortgages and other such payments. While we hear such stories on a daily basis, we have come to the conclusion that we all have to stand together and help each other. There is a major divide in society today. The ‘Recovery’ seems to be enriching the Rich by taking from the poor and most vulnerable in our society. The scandal of home repossessions continue and the resulting homelessness experienced by way too many, is a blight on our society. Children going to school hungry is like something my late father used to speak about, of the ‘Hungry 30s’. That always seemed a distant memory for him but today sadly, it’s a reality.

Lets all stand together and look out for each other. Use the services of the local tradesmen, butchers, corner shop and other local businesses that employ local people who we all know and love. Only by helping ourselves and trading with our neighbours do you and me have any chance of survival.

Well, I’m told summer arrives this weekend. So, cheer up as the sun is around the corner. Stay Safe people and remember … Shop Local.

 

LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 26th May , 2016.

 

Written by LegalEagleStar

May 26, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Posted in LegalEagleStar

The Day a Judge told me to F Off !

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Early & BaldwinAs a long-time practitioner of Family Law, there are moments which stick in your mind, for one reason or another. Many years back, noting I’m qualified over 35 years, I was involved in a very sad Child Custody case.

My client, the husband, had separated from his wife when their only child, a beautiful daughter, was very young. She was now eight years old. He had moved abroad for work and his daughter lived with him since she was a baby. The wife unfortunately had suffered for many years from depression and on occasions, was institutionalised. They still kept in touch and from time to time, he travelled back so that his wife could spend some time with her daughter.

Unfortunately, on one such visit home, the family of his estranged spouse decided to pressurize the child’s mother into hiding the child and when he arrived to collect her at 6pm as agreed, neither the wife nor his daughter could be found. He was traumatized and the next day arrived at my office to instruct me in the case. We wasted no time in issuing proceedings and made an emergency application to the Court to have the matter dealt with. Our investigations had revealed the location of both the mother and child.

On the morning of the hearing, evidence was heard by the learned Judge who decided to that an early date for hearing was warranted and listed the case to come back before him in 5 weeks time. This was agreeable, although inconvenient for my client as he had to inform his employers, who thankfully, were accommodating. The matter of access was discussed and the Judge then decided that he was giving the father No Access, despite the fact that the child lived full-time with him ; that he had sole custody ; and the mother was not a fit person to look after the child, due to her recurring illness. It was her family that had in fact assumed custody of the child, not her. Needless to say we were infuriated with the Judges decision. Despite our endeavours there was no moving him. I then stood up and angrily stormed out of Court followed closely by my client. I was horrified when he asked me was it usual for a Judge to tell a solicitor to F Off ! Needless to say I was horrified as I had not heard the remark. I took a deep breath, composed myself and both myself and counsel headed straight up to the High Court and informed the presiding Judge of what had happened, bar the comment. He wisely ordered daily access for my client from midday until 6pm until the case was heard.

When the case finally came back before the aforementioned Judge, he shouted out ‘Who appealed my Order ?’ Then he took a look at me and said ‘You, huh, doesn’t surprise me.’ He then went on to hear the case in full and rightly returned the child into the custody of the father. When we exited the courtroom the wife let out a cry which brought tears to my eyes. Regardless of the fact that justice was served that day, Child Custody cases are traumatic, not only for the parties involved, but also for the lawyers.

LegalEagleStar Tuesday 3rd. November 2015.

Written by LegalEagleStar

November 3, 2015 at 8:55 pm

You Deserve Respect and Justice. We Demand it !

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E&B Posters_007I have been a solicitor working in the area of Personal Injury Law for over 30 years. During that time, I have seen many changes in the way the injured person has been treated.

I qualified as a Solicitor in 1980. At that time, cases were heard before a Judge and Jury. Following strong lobbying from the Insurance Industry, Juries in personal injury cases were abolished. The Insurance Industry lobbyists thought that with cases being heard by Judges alone, that awards would be reduced. This in turn would help to boost the vast profits in the industry. I remember going before the Courts when the Michaelmas term commenced, fearing that my clients would suffer loss as a result of the interference in the Court System by such a strong lobby. As it turned out, Mr Justice Hamilton, in the High Court in Dublin sat on the first few cases and in fact doubled the awards that had been heretofore been awarded. A 12 month whiplash injury which up until then we could expect the sum of 15,000 Irish Punts, he awarded 30,000 ! Other Judges followed his lead. The Courts decided that in fact, Juries were not particularly generous and that awards needed to be raised in order for the injured parties to receive the appropriate compensation for their injuries.

Let us jump ahead in time to the introduction by the Irish Government of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. This State Board would in fact replace the Courts. They would decide on what was fit and proper compensation. As the Large Insurance Companies had the ear of the Government Ministers, they felt that the Judges could not be trusted. This Scheme was introduced as a ‘Lawyer Free Zone’. They were taking the whole Personal Injury area from the hands of what they termed the ‘greedy lawyers’. Thankfully, following a successful challenge in the Courts, they had to relinquish on this point. Nonetheless, it is mandatory to press all cases into PIAB. You then wait for many months until your case is decided on. This is a closed Government System. It is only when an award is made, or indeed the case ‘released’ by The Injuries Board, that you are in a position to bring your case before the Courts.

Back in 1980, lawyers were banned from advertising. The norm was for an injured person to present themselves at the offices of the Insurance Company they had a claim against. You literally went in the front door and took a ticket and remained in line until your number was reached. You then had to fight to have them deal with your case. Many visits later you’d most likely be worn down and take whatever they offered you, in order to bring an end to this stressful situation. In the last 1980’s, following pressure from the Restrictive Practices Commission, advertising by lawyers was permitted. Much to the disgust, I can recall, of the Law Society, who regulate the Solicitors Profession. I was one of the first solicitors to embrace this advertising, by Radio, TV, Golden Pages and other legitimate means. This resulted in injured clients calling us at Early & Baldwin. Our caseload increased. Clients no longer queued up, took a ticket and waited. We looked after them from the moment they called us. There was a seismic change in the way injured people were treated. This freedom to advertise, coupled with the  compensation that Judges were awarding, ensured that people were justly rewarded.

Needless to say, the Insurance Industry were not happy with developments. There followed a new Act to curb advertising by solicitors. No longer could you promote yourself as a personal injury lawyer nor indeed ‘encourage’ people to pursue their claims. This would be deemed an offence which the solicitor would find himself/herself in deep water with the Law Society. So today, we have restrictions on advertising by Personal Injury Solicitors, coupled with a State body, The Injuries Board deciding on awards. Now, the Insurance Industry are happy. You’d never know it of course, as they conceal their massive profits and complain still about ‘fraudulent claims and suchlike. Let’s be clear about it. No solicitor will knowingly take on a fraudulent case. This is a criminal matter. The use of the term by the Insurance Industry is for one thing and one thing only. That is, to scare people into not pursuing their legitimate claims.

We at Early & Baldwin believe that as lawyers, we represent our clients to the best of our ability and despite the restrictions imposed at the behest of the Insurance Companies, it is our belief that our clients deserve Respect and Justice and we will continue to demand it on their behalf. While we are not alone amongst our profession in holding these views, we urge all solicitors involved in working with plaintiff claimants to demand the same for their clients. Don’t accept anything less as all our clients deserve as much.

LegalEagleStar, Tuesday 28th. July 2015

Written by LegalEagleStar

July 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm

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