LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Posts Tagged ‘Family law

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.

 

 

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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 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

I’ve an App for that …. Law without a Lawyer

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A day doesn’t go by without us being bombarded by Apps. Sign up and get a free App for your iPhone. We have more Apps on our phones than we can use. Sure they may be handy at some stage in the future i.e. next week !

Over the past while, I’ve been horrified that many people, lawyers included, are saying ‘I’ve an App for that’… when discussing the law. Yes, I admit, some are educational but I am referring to those that are advocating that you can look after your own divorce, house sale or purchase and other such important matters which hugely impact on your life. Why go to College and study law; then spend time in a Law School to get your Practicing Certificate? Well according to these geniuses, no need at all. Sure save your money and use the App. They ask you why you are wasting money on these legal professionals when you can just use their App. Unfortunately, it would appear that many people are being taken in by this dangerous nonsense.

While I for one respect newly qualified lawyers, whether they be at the Bar or from the Law Society, they have their place in the overall legal framework. What most don’t have, is experience. That is only gained from many years of practice in their chosen fields. This experience is what comes into play when taking on a case for a client. The client deserves to go to law with experienced lawyers who have their interests solely at heart. Most spend many hours working up the case for their client and the full weight of their experience is called into play. Every client is unique. Their circumstances are not like any others. There may be similarities e.g. they have four children and have been married for twenty years. But that is where the similarity ends. To act as though two cases are the same would, in my opinion, equate to nothing short of professional negligence.

But I cannot afford thousands of pounds to employ a lawyer, or a team of lawyers as can be the case. Well, you cannot afford not to. How much did you spend on your wedding? That was a big event and a very important day for you. You spent what you could to celebrate in style. Yes, later you cut back on some items, but you didn’t do without what was important on the day. Well, your divorce costs should be thought of in similar terms. I am not suggesting you go to one of the Big Law Firms. They have access to the same Family Law Barristers as your local High Street Family Law Solicitor. Why people go to these firms is quite beyond me. In my experience,these firms are dealing with Corporate matters in the main and are not concerned with the day to day legal matters of the ordinary man and woman. They may take on your case if you’re doing your business with them or else if a relative of yours is. Your High Street Family Law Practitioner will give you a good personal service and instruct the appropriate barrister to get you through this difficult time.

I come across lay litigants a lot more today than I have in the past. While I respect the individual trying to do his own case, I do see the error of their ways. It is a nigh impossible task. To give credit where it is due, many Judges go out of their way to help such people. That alone will not help them get the justice which many deserve. So, when you download that magic App that will get you painlessly through your divorce or other pressing legal matter just remember… Law without a Lawyer is a fool’s paradise.

 

LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 7th. August , 2014 .

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August 7, 2014 at 11:22 am

Why become a Lawyer…sure aren’t they only money grabbing Scum !

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Perry Mason (TV series)

Perry Mason (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David E. Kelley

David E. Kelley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a teenager, I was an enthusiastic fan of Perry Mason. I was blown away by his expertise. That man could save people accused and looking guilty. Of course they were innocent but it was only his expertise that exposed the truth. What a Guy. It would appear that Perry was an inspiration for a generation of lawyers. Later ‘idols’ included Ally McBeal, the lawyers at LA Law and more recently Denny Crane and Alan Shore, not to mention Shirley Schmidt, all at Boston Legal. What all of these idols represented was a pursuit of justice for their clients both rich and poor.

During my College years in the mid to late 1970’s, I encountered a very diverse set of fellow students. There was the middle-aged teacher who felt that ‘it was time for a change’. He was a very genuine guy and told all that would listen to him, that his days teaching had come to an end and that he needed a new challenge. There was the Canadian businessman who wanted to come back to Ireland and felt that he wanted to pursue a career in law. My friend Anna was about my age, late teens, and had always wanted to be a solicitor. She came from a wealthy background but was a good person who wanted to do some good. Phyllis was a law clerk and had developed an interest in law and felt it was the natural progression, career-wise, to go to College in order to step up the ladder so to speak. Ann, who had numerous degrees already felt it was time, yet again, to go back and this time get a law degree to add to the numerous degrees she already possessed. She took us all under her belt and gave us the guidance we really needed. There was another Anne who was the daughter of a wealthy banker. She was really mature compared to me. She had her career planned out. Daddy had arranged this. She had brains to burn unlike me who felt somewhat overawed in such company. I must say they were a great support and source of encouragement to be during those years. While I was wildly idealistic, I was getting a real education in life itself. We were a diverse group but the one thing that we all had in common was our enthusiasm for the law. Many a debate, some heated, we engaged in and it was where I encountered politics or should I say Political Parties and the hold and influence they had on people. I saw that it was not only what you know but who you knew that seemed to determine your future.

It was during my second year that I got involved with FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres). I didn’t apply to join them but was so fascinated with a young enthusiastic female barrister,now a Senior Counsel, who literally threw me into the deep end, that I encountered a vast number of people who The System had ignored and needed our help. It was no time before I was in charge of FLAC in Ballymun and had to deal with numerous social based problems and in particular Family Law. What a fantastic group of people I was privileged to meet. They gave of their time and energy to give advice and indeed appear in Court representing people who could not afford to go into a Solicitor for advice. I must mention here that some firms gave of their time and expertise to help us and for that we were so very grateful. Without their help and letting us use their names to front our Court appearances, we would not have had access to the Court system to protect the rights of the most vulnerable and dismissed in our society.

Well, the results were out. We all passed our exams, Thank God. I think my late father’s prayers had more to do with my success than the many hours spent trying to come to grips with the niceties of the law. We all headed our separate ways and ended up in one job or another. Personally I had a workload what with my involvement in FLAC. This followed me into practice as you just couldn’t hand it over to someone in the hope that they would look after the client. These many clients had become personal to me. I set up practice from my father’s house and with the support of my family I commenced to practice. The rest is history. I was lucky in that I was busy from the start. Apart from the numerous Free cases I did, I got work locally and over the first few years I was able to make a living. Most of my Classmates joined established firms and most stayed the course and are still practicing today.

Was making money a motivation? It certainly was for some but I must say the interest in law was the major factor. For most of us making a living was the important factor as this gave us the energy and enthusiasm to pursue issues through the Courts that would make a difference to people’s lives. It was not glamorous standing outside the Family Law Courts attempting to settle cases. The deserted wife with four children attempting to live on £25 a week was not uncommon. The husband who deserted them claiming he wasn’t working, had no money, when the opposite was the case. Those were hard and tough times for these women and they relied on us to give them the chance to survive. While Ann and one or two others may have gone into banking, most of the rest of us dealt with the ordinary citizen and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

LegalEagleStar , Wednesday , 23rd. January , 2013 .

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January 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Divorce in Ireland today in this Economic Downturn

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Divorce Cakes a_007

Image by DrJohnBullas via Flickr

When a marriage breaks down or a long-term relationship ends, it’s a tough time for everyone involved. It’s not just the couple themselves who experience the hurt and/or anger of the separation but also any children that either, or both of them may have, their immediate families and also close friends.  Of course, when a couple separates, it is not as simple as it once was. Today with the economic downturn the money is simply not available to effect a proper separation. People  didn’t need to worry about joint bank accounts and mortgages in the past.  When a relationship breaks down everything needs to be regulated. What were possibly at one time, simple everyday matters, have now to go through the long process of being sorted. Parties need to agree, or have a Court decide, custody and access of any dependent children; deciding where the children primarily live and what days and times the other parent may see their children; child and possible spousal maintenance; what will happen to the family home and any other possible houses or assets, pension entitlements, car/s etc. While an amicable breakup is desirable, it is not always possible and in many cases either one or both parties will look for the kitchen sink from the other. In  previous years, which at this time, seem somewhat of a blur, parties separated and huge settlements and significant maintenance were awarded. Cases were fighting for dates to be heard in the High Court. Nowadays, the High Court lists are quite slim with the majority of cases being heard in the Circuit Court.

There are now huge difficulties for lawyers trying to negotiate settlements even where an agreement is reached between the parties. To use by way of example, the following scenario. Say there is a family home and an investment property, and the agreement reached is that one party remains in the family home with the children, while the other party is to live in the investment property. It is agreed that each will be the sole owner of the respective properties and be responsible for that property’s mortgage while allowing the other party off  the mortgage. The Court rules the settlement, but then the Banks will not allow either party off either mortgage. This, even where the parties indemnify each other to the best of their abilities and with the best of intentions. Where one party later defaults, the Bank can still go after both parties and the settlement reached can effectively become worthless.

So, what do people need in a good family lawyer?  Some individuals falsely believe, that by going to one of the Big Named Law Firms, they are getting the best Solicitors and Barristers in the business. In the current economic climate, I believe that some firms continue to charge inordinate fees, when people are struggling to maintain one household, let alone two, which is the effect post separation. I believe this is unjust. While some cases involve more working hours than others and fees vary in this regard, I do not believe people should be paying more for one solicitor than another largely due to the name that appears on the headed paper. Unlike Solicitors, Barristers are a completely independent body and again, while some cases involve more time and paperwork than others, Barrister’s fees will, in most part, be the exact same whether acting for a Big Firm or a Small Practice. Many successful Family Law Barristers, contrary to common belief, act for everyone from the Legal Aid Board, to the local one man solicitor who employs two people, right up to the big firms who employ several hundred. In the times that we live in, it’s also important to remember, that while you do not want to be ‘ripped off ‘  and would like value for money, equally you must be aware of these so-called ‘quickie divorces’ where you think you are getting a bargain and the fees are very low. Later down the line however, you may find yourself in difficulty where transactions haven’t been completed or haven’t in fact been done correctly. In deciding what Solicitor to engage, you must think about yourself and what your needs are.  Some Solicitors and Barristers in the family law field have an aggressive approach, while others have a nurturing view. And then others, just effectively, say it as it is. Personally, I believe a down to earth, friendly, straight forward approach is ideal. I also believe that a party going through a separation has enough physical and mental strain going on in their lives, that an aggressive legal team can sometimes make matters worse and the hopes of a settlement between the parties becomes more difficult. While your legal team does not necessarily need to be your friend, you do need to be comfortable with them and be able to speak openly  in order for them to best meet your needs.

What are you paying for?  You may see your bill at the end of a case and wonder how this figure appeared? Initially, a Solicitor will take your  instructions, explain the different options open to you and then write to the other party involved, informing them of your intention to separate and regulate matters between you. If you agree on a Separation Agreement, the Solicitor will draft this up and you will not need a barrister, nor will you attend Court. A Separation Agreement is in effect, a contract between the two parties and any breach thereof is a breach of contract. If the parties agree to a Judicial Separation or Divorce, in many cases a solicitor will brief a Junior Counsel (barrister) and, in some cases, a Senior Counsel also. The Barrister’s role is to draft the appropriate Court documents and deal with any Court appearances which, in some cases may just be one on the day of the hearing or, in other cases, where interim orders are required and/or where the other party is reluctant to participate in the case. In the latter scenario, Orders to compel them to do so, or have Orders made in their absence may be required.

Unfortunately, relationships will break down in good times and bad. Today we are in unprecedented times and the legal profession must respond to the needs of their clients in a way that reflects the true values in our society. Those values have unfortunately been decimated by the few in our profession who represent the vested interests of those who control our society. It’s time that the legal profession asserted itself in the interests of all who serve the interests of the citizen and lead the demands for true reform and oppose the obscene vested interest groups who seek the ruination of our society and the downgrading of the rights of our Citizens. Elsewhere in the world today, it is the legal profession who are at the forefront of reform in the interests of the citizen and who suffer in such a cause. In Ireland  it should be no different. The politicians today are looking after the interests of the IMF/EU and the Banks, so there is a clear conflict of interests with the concerns of the Citizen.

Those who are unfortunate enough to suffer relationship breakdown in these troubled times deserve to be represented by us in the legal profession, having regard to the considerable strains that people are now enduring. Yes, the strain on relationships is now far greater in such troubled times. There are those that pull together in times like these but bad relationships will certainly not survive the additional stress they must endure today.

LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 30th. June , 2011

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