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Posts Tagged ‘FLAC

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

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 .

Written by LegalEagleStar

January 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm

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