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Your access to Justice … as prescribed by a Group of Political Elites

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Lawyer Bashing Is Fun

Lawyer Bashing Is Fun (Photo credit: rkrichardson)

In the 1980s a meeting of ‘Elite’ politicians took place with the Insurance Industry. ( I could name this Group but will refrain from so doing.) Many such meetings were already happening concerning the banks but this one was composed essentially of the same participants.  At this  meeting concerns were raised by the Insurance Industry people regarding the changing face of the legal profession. With pressure on the Government to allow lawyers advertise their firms, concern was expressed that if the American Model was followed that profits would take a severe hit and something had to be done to stop this from happening. The lawyers present, and in particular a leading Law Society member expressed the view that the profession would not be allowed go this route and he would make sure that anyone trying to do so would be severely dealt with. Matters were initially laid to rest but it was not long before the ‘new breed’ of lawyer emerged which challenged those ‘traditional’ types. ( I am not referring to those that didn’t advertise. Just a cynical reference to those that controlled the profession.) Then followed more meetings with the interest group and it was not long before they hatched their own plan to deal with the ‘new breed’.

Juries were removed from Personal Injury Cases in 1988. That of course wasn’t enough as it was decided that Judges could not be trusted to reduce awards. It took them all of  fifteen years to appoint Mary Harney to attempt to introduce a ‘Lawyer Free’ Personal Injury Assessment Board which in effect continues to this day. The reasoning behind this was not, as stated to assist and help the Citizen to get justice in their cases, in a speedier fashion, but was to kick lawyers out of the system.  Sure, the Government had the interests of the citizens at heart. It was those greedy lawyers who ripped the citizen off. Nonetheless the ones to benefit were the Giant Insurance Companies. Thankfully the Courts subsequently found it unlawful to exclude lawyers from dealing with such cases. Today the Insurance Industry spend Millions of Euros each week in expensive television campaigns which denigrate the integrity of the citizen, suggesting that they are crooks ripping off the system. Strangely enough, no mention of the dreaded greedy lawyers in their current advertising campaign. No doubt though they will be the target of a future, more enhanced campaign.

On the family law front, divorce was being heralded as the new way forward. Having dealt a blow to those personal injury lawyers, it was not long before the mantra changed, slightly. We want Divorce and Now was penned but there was an addition to the narrative. We are entitled to Divorce and as a right, we shouldn’t have to pay for it. These chants didn’t fall on deaf ears. (I am not in any way condemning Legal Aid here, a right myself and many others fought hard for.) Those same politicians targeted  ‘Divorce Lawyers’ as the scum of the earth. It would seem that it wasn’t just the ‘new breed’ of Personal Injury Lawyers who would be the target of their venom but now the Family Law Lawyer.

When the dreadful lawyers involved in Family Law became the prime target (I exclude Mr Shatter and other such elitist Firms here), we all started receiving documentation regarding mediation. This was the way of the future we were told. In England there had been a move by some lawyers to become involved in the mediation process and there has been a drive in Ireland in the recent past, to mediate as opposed to litigating family law matters. Let me just comment that the work of the lawyer on a daily basis is not what is widely believed. Yes, we issue proceeding to protect the interests of our clients but then meet with our opposing number to try to see what common ground we may have. Many issues are resolved this way. Other matters that are in dispute will be litigated on. The time of the Court is not wasted on matters that are not in dispute. Mediation is part and parcel of the daily work of the lawyer. Yes, it’s paid for by the client, as is mediation. Now we are told that lawyers should be taken out of the equation and let the mediator do the work. Right, so you pay the mediator instead. Then when the process is complete you attend at the office of your lawyer for advice on what had been agree. Well, in my experience the mediated agreement is far from complete and I’ve yet to see a mediated agreement which I couldn’t have done a better job on and been part of the whole process. Remember you still have to go to Court to get your Divorce, Judicial Separation or suchlike. I know this is controversial but I’m not convinced after my more than 30 years in practice that mediation is the way to go in the majority of family law cases.

So, law without a lawyer is the current trend. Just be careful for what you wish for, because a small group of elite politicians, bankers and Insurance Companies are driving this agenda and it is not for the benefit of the Citizen. The ‘new breed’ of lawyer deserve your support. Remember it is you they act for and your interest alone. And what’s refreshing in this day and age is that they will not be bought off. The political elites are in the ascendancy at the present time and becoming more dangerous by the day. Our current Minister for Justice ,who has a distinct distaste for the current ‘independent’ bar wants to do away with the profession as we know it and have a new legal profession which is answerable to him, as Minister for Justice. While I’m no lover of the current Law Society model which is unrepresentative of me  and I have told  as much, I do fear that under the direct control of the Minister for Justice that my independence will be lost and I will be unable to represent the interests of my client without the State looking over my shoulder and overseeing all my actions. This is not what an independent legal profession is all about. For too long have the Law Society acted only for the elite within the profession and have been unrepresentative of lawyers who acted, not for the Corporate sector but the citizen. They have allowed the elites among them progress at the expense of the grass root solicitor within the community whose sole concern is protecting the rights of the citizen. The loss to the profession of these excellent, and mainly young members, is an absolute disgrace and in years to come, will be regretted by many, when too late to rescue our dying profession.

LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 6th. September , 2012 .

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