LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Archive for December 2012

End of Days… and Remembering the Poor at Christmas, it just might be You !

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Homeless

Homeless (Photo credit: fotografar)

According to the Mayan Calendar, tomorrow marks the end of the world. Living in Ireland today we might think that the end of the world, as we know it, is indeed nigh. So, if you are reading this next Saturday, the prophesy is obviously wrong but you never know. Stranger things have happened as my Uncle Bernie used to say.

For many years now I have had the privilege, as a solicitor, to act for some of those we refer to as the poor. I do not make such a reference in any disparaging way but mention it now as it appears to be more meaningful at this time of year and in the Ireland of Christmas 2012.  Scripture mentions that the poor will always be with us, but today, more than anytime I can remember, the poor are very close to us. Yes, those living in this depressing country called Ireland. It was not always so. I love my country and condemn those that have abused it for their own selfish needs.

Poverty can be of many varieties. The obvious being those on low and middle incomes who have found it desperately hard to pay their household bills; to feed their children and indeed put clothes on their backs. If it wasn’t for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, The Simon Community and other such charities, many would have lost their homes and literally be on the side of the road. Those that have, will and should dig deep into their pockets in order to help their fellow-man survive this tough winter. We live in unprecedented times when our Government has literally turned their backs on the Irish Citizens in pursuit of a greater European vision of a New Beginning. Unfortunately that vision does not cater for, nor improve the lot of the working man. It is a Europe where Big Business will thrive at the expense of the ordinary citizen.

There is another type of poverty rampant in Ireland today that crosses all class barriers, if indeed you do believe in the class system, which I do not. This is the issue of the mental health of the nation. While you may be lucky enough to be able to pay your bills this winter, you may well be suffering mental illness brought on, in many cases by the disastrous state of the country. Those that brought about this economic decline and indeed those that continue the austerity policies which are drowning the citizens in debt, have a lot to answer for. The number of suicides is unacceptable but seem to be the inevitable consequences of austerity and the policies being imposed by those Elites who continue to pursue their own selfish agenda to the detriment of the citizen. Shame on them and their fellow travellers.

May I wish everyone a Happy and Holy Christmas but ask that you remember those less well off than yourself especially at this time of year. Be as generous as you can and remember to spend time with people. Many times it is the time spent with our fellow-man that brings about the most benefits. If the Mayans have got it right, then maybe our suffering poor can be spared the indignity of yet another harsh winter of discontent.

LegalEagleStar , Thursday 20th. December , 2012.

Could the end of the High Street Solicitor be…. around the corner ?

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No Solicitors!!!

No Solicitors!!! (Photo credit: age3.141592)

I’ve just had the opportunity to glance through the ‘Survey of Irish law firms 2012/13 which landed on my desk today.  The authors of the Survey, Smith & Williamson claim that 93 law firms took part in the Survey: 5 of the top 10; 14 mid-tier and 74 small firms. I must be included in the latter category having completed the Survey. I actually had a few minutes one day and decided to do my duty.  That said, sadly none of my illuminating comments were reported although they claim that ‘a sample of participants’ comments have been included…’

By and large, in my opinion, the Survey is completely unrepresentative of the views of the majority of the profession. The views expressed are clearly of the Elites in the profession who have absolutely nothing in common with the High Street solicitor who the working man/woman has contact with. It’s interesting to read under the heading Impact of the Legal Services Regulation Bill  ‘The Bill proposes the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority  thereby removing the existing self-regulation system by the Law Society and Bar Council…..In spite of concerns regarding Government influence, the Law Society fundamentally altered its stance in April 2012 when it informed members of its formal support for the Authority proposal and stated it would be in the best interest of the public and the profession.’  This is yet another case where the interests of the Elites are indeed served while the independence offered by the High Street Solicitor representing an independent Legal Profession have been dismissed. In future then, the State will control the legal profession with the full support of the Law Society. It’s at times like this that I wonder what my membership of the Law Society is all about. They hold themselves out as representing the interests of the profession. They do not. It is a long time since they have represented my interests or the interests of my colleagues, bar those that serve Government and Multinational Enterprises including the Banks and Insurance Companies. To be fair to the authors of the Survey they do state ‘However, this stance does not appear to currently have the full support of the profession…’

I won’t bore you with further references to the Survey except to say that it is of little or no assistance to the average solicitor who must continue to work hard to etch out a living. Gone are the days of some 50 years ago when the fact of qualifying was enough to guarantee you a certain standard of living. Today the legal professions are not restricted to the sons and daughters of solicitors and those preferred members of society. They are made up of the sons and daughters of the working man who worked hard, night and day, to give their children a chance to pursue a career. The ability to study law was once the preserve of the chosen few. Today lawyers work hard to pursue the rights of their clients regardless of ability to pay and suchlike. That was not always the case. I should, in balance, say that there was always some good people in the profession who acted in such a manner but I believe that they were few and far between.

Over the past couple of years I’d had many a chat with fellow lawyers concerning the future of our profession. Many are close to closing shop. Some time ago, many said, they had purchased the building they worked from with hefty mortgages and now find the cost of repayments are putting an undue strain on their practices. The thought behind this action was to reduce the ever-increasing cost of renting rooms and also to provide for a pension for themselves when they retired. This scenario is not uncommon. It would appear that it is only time for many, before they must cease to practice. The inability to access funds from the Banks among other things has had catastrophic results for them. At a time when they need guidance and assistance from their professional body, they feel ostracised and alone in their fight for survival. Even the need to attend seminars to gain CPD points, while not cheap in itself,  has them away from their practices when there are few enough hours in the working week as it is, to complete their legal work for their clients. It is sad the number of good lawyers, both solicitors and barristers who have had to cease practice over the last few years. Not only is it sad, it’s an absolute disgrace. The loss of these good people is being felt by those of us left to continue in practice. Little or no concern has been expressed by the Professional Bodies and one must wonder whether a return to the elitist ‘closed door’ profession of the past, is the prefered way forward for them.

LegalEagleStar , Monday , 10th December , 2012 .

Note: The No Solicitors Graphic used above is done so with a sense of humour as it is American and has a non-lawyer meaning.

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