… a kind of Legal Column

Posts Tagged ‘Newstalk

The Morality of Lawyers acting for Banks

with 5 comments

Eviction in Ireland around 1879 ("Land Wa...
Eviction in Ireland around 1879 (“Land War”) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I qualified over thirty years ago. During that time I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with and acting against some great lawyers, both solicitors and barristers. They fight tooth and nail for their clients and after an exhausting battle, we retire for coffee, or stronger and engage with each other as colleagues. I have great memories over those years and sadly some of these people have died and moved on to greener pastures. They epitomised what the law was about. The battle was by and large, a clean one. You didn’t have to watch your back, just concentrate on the job in hand. Your clients interests were what it was about. There was always a great satisfaction when the job was done and your client went off happy. As I am not in the habit of losing cases, I can say that this was nearly always the case. That might sound smug. It’s not meant to be. I have always surrounded myself with the best team available and this has been the recipe for success.

Unfortunately, all encounters have not been as described above. When dealing with the Irish Nationwide on behalf of a client who was in financial difficulties, I encountered a somewhat different story. The client was clearly in arrears but upon investigation I couldn’t make head nor tail of the figures. No matter how I read them, they didn’t add up. The Nationwide’s solicitors just wanted an Order for Possession and were not prepared to engage in any manner so the matter proceeded in the Circuit Court. Judge Frank Roe, then President of the Circuit Court had the same difficulty with the case as I had and decided to strike out their case and awarded costs to my client. Some days later I received a phone call from the Solicitor for the Building Society. It took me aback somewhat. He told me that he was phoning me on the instructions of his client. He named his instructing Arrears Manager and said he had instructions to call me  ‘a Liar’. I asked him to repeat what he had just said and indeed he did. I asked him did he do everything his client told him to do? He replied Yes, of course. I hung up on him after a few brief words which I will not repeat.

When I was qualified a couple of years I was asked by my local friendly Bank if I would take a look at something for them. As I knew the Assistant Manager, I said ‘No problem’. I was expecting something of a personal nature as I do get the odd call from them when they encounter matrimonial difficulties and such like. What I was presented with was a list of debts outstanding at the branch. I browsed through the list and was horrified as it was like reading a list of old age pensioners in the area. The amounts varied from Fifteen to One Thousand pounds. I stormed into the Bank and informed them that under no circumstances would I take action on their behalf against these pensioners and in fact if they pursued them I would act for free for them against the Bank. I think about three of the pensioners came into me and happily all arrears were written off. It opened my eyes as to how the Banks treat weak and vulnerable people and I made a decision that day that I would never act on behalf of a Bank or Building Society ever, as a matter of principle.

Some months ago I was disgusted, while listened to the Morning Show on Newstalk, to hear a Solicitor talking about how he was really doing well acting in repossessions for the local Banks. He had no qualms about so acting. He went on to say that since the recession had taken a grip that he was now dealing with ‘a better class of client’.  I sometimes wonder about the morality of acting on behalf of some people. If solicitors really valued their clients and by clients I mean people, the citizens of this country, would they not think twice and look beyond the professional fee. How can you in all honesty act for such institutions as the Banks and the cohorts in having someone evicted from their family home ?  Do they have a conscience?  While in other countries lawyers are to the forefront of social reform and indeed put their lives on the line for their principles, it would seem that in Ireland today the lure of manna is all that excites some people who I would once have expected to be men and women of integrity.

LegalEagleStar , Wednesday , 25th. April , 2012 .

Written by LegalEagleStar

April 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Do all Solicitors live in the same World ? It seems not !

with 3 comments

English: The Law Society of Ireland, Blackhall...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday morning I was listening to Newstalk Breakfast Show on the Radio, when I heard an interview with a solicitor ‘ ‘a leading commercial litigation and corporate recovery lawyer in Ireland. He has represented parties in all of the significant corporate restructuring cases before the Courts as well as regularly advising leading domestic and international companies on commercial law, corporate finance and regulatory issues… also a lecturer for the Law Society of Ireland in their Higher Diploma Course on Corporate Recovery and Insolvency.” So, not your average High Street Solicitor dealing with the Citizen on an average day. I was horrified then to hear him pontificate about competition within the profession driving down costs. He made the point about all those solicitors being out of work was the factor driving legal costs down. What utter nonsense.

The legal profession is made up mainly of solicitors who work daily on behalf of the citizen. They charge reasonable fees knowing that their clients have a limited purse. This has always been the case. In fact many a time the costs charged do not even cover the costs of the work undertaken. The fact that their numbers have diminished since the demise of the Celtic Tiger has had little or no effect on the costs of providing legal services. They take on litigation cases on a no foal no fee basis as otherwise the citizen would be unable to pursue their cases. This is a fact but one disputed by the Elites in the profession who control their governing body, the Law Society who claim to represent the opinions and views of the profession as a whole. I would humbly disagree and state that this is not in fact the case. When the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, now known as The Injuries Board was about to be imposed upon the citizen, I personally was told by the Director General, Ken Murphy, that he did not represent my views. I asked him why not and he responded that a lot of other solicitors held different views than me. So Ken, you represent them NOT me. Fair enough. Once that position is clear and known that the Society does not in fact represent myself and others like me, at least we know where we stand.

I would caution that there are a breed of solicitor who have grown up over the Celtic Tiger years and one that I take an exception to. That is the practitioner who charges a fee based on him not reading the title in conveyancing matters. It would appear to me that they are dangerous both to the profession and the citizen. We charge fees in conveyancing matters based on reading the title to the proposed purchase/sale and pass on/acquire the best title possible. Conveyancers are a particular breed of solicitor who have a lot of experience in dealing with very complicated titles. Unfortunately those undercutting their colleagues are not doing anyone a favour. In my view they are charging for a job they are neglecting to do. They rely on their Insurance Policy should a problem arise, which it will inevitably do. Who then has to clean up the mess and is criticised for charging for so doing but the High Street Conveyancing Solicitor.

Now, what do I have in common with the Elites within the profession? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Those firms that deal with the Bankers, Insurance Companies and indeed the Government. The fees charged out to these sectors are enormous and go unchallenged as they are the Old Boys Network. Don’t get me wrong. There are many good lawyers working in the Corporate sector and indeed for many of these Elites. They are not the problem or even a part of the problem. They are the footsoldiers who do the work, the daily grind. They will be used and disposed of at the whim of the Senior Partner and those whose interests he protects. Certainly not theirs. Control of the profession is essential for these Elites and the proposed changes being introduced by Minister Shatter goes some way to undermine this. Shatter of course, has his own agenda, but that is another days work. Cynically, the Elites have attempted to move the profession to action to stop the Law Society being undermined by the proposed changes in the new Legal Services Bill. Watch this space.

S0me years back, an alarming development occurred. Changes were introduced whereby the Banks and Building Societies made the decision that they were no longer going to pay solicitors to act on their behalf in the provision of mortgages. They stated that this was an added cost to the borrower. Indeed it was and one that should have been borne by the Banks themselves. The Law Society introduced what is called a Certificate of Title. This was where the purchaser’s solicitor has to certify the title to the Financial Institution and so have a liability not only to their client but also to the Financial Institution. Many of us were horrified with this development on many fronts. Firstly, we resented replacing colleagues who did a great job in examining the title on behalf of the Banks etc. The interests of the Bankers and the citizens are not the same and separate representation is essential. Secondly and more alarming, was the exposition of the profession to the whims of a rogue solicitor who could act in a criminal way and cause devastation both to their clients as well as the profession as a whole. Today we are all too aware of the number of crooked lawyers who have played the system for their own benefit leaving chaos and devastation behind them. Who picks up the tab? The High Street solicitor who can ill afford to pay up such vast amounts and who is the one unrepresented by the Elites who run the Law Society.

I personally would love to see those good people both on the Council of the Law Society and within the work force in Blackhall Place set up as a Representative Body for the High Street Solicitor and him/her alone. These solicitors need representation and we have within our ranks those good people who would indeed represent our interests. Will this ever happen ? Well, a few years back I would answer a definitive No, but today I do have some hope in the integrity of those dealing with the real problems we face and who have shown a disgust at the direction the leadership of our profession has taken in recent years. There have been local Bar Associations Groups throughout the entire country who have stood up against vested interests as of late, although their efforts at reform from within have been stymied by those holding power. A new direction is need and a new representative body must emerge in order to ensure the proper representation of the citizen in the years ahead.

As regards the other branch of the legal profession i.e. The Bar, the fate of many good independent barristers is being decided by Government in an unfair and shameful manner. I will deal with that issue in another Blog.

LegalEagleStar , Wednesday , 29th. February , 2012

Waiting for a Phone Call, Listening to Enda, my Grandson Toes and a Red HairDryer

with one comment

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Image by Tom Szustek via Flickr

Today has been a frustrating day. Started off fairly well, as well as could be expected. Yet another sleepless night worrying about the kids, the dog, my mother and a couple of clients who I feel really sorry for. Then the phone call I’m awaiting, well hoping for really.

The day started with me listening to Newstalk Morning News. Maybe it was just the sound of Enda Kenny’s voice declaring that he hadn’t lied to the electorate when he said he was going to protect and maintain the services of a Hospital prior to the General Election. He hasn’t, and has now ‘seen the light’ and realised he can’t fulfil his election promises. Nothing new there you might say. Well, what was the purpose of the original statement? If it was to ensure that he and his Party got elected then things would make sense. Because now, we’re told that Hospitals are unsafe and we need to go to the Major Hospitals for care. The problem is compounded as we’re now told by the Doctors that the major hospitals are unsafe. I’m sure, like me, you are fed up with Spin and the absolute nonsense we’re expected to believe. On the facts today it seems that all the Medical Negligence cases we have Must Succeed as quite clearly today… all hospitals are unsafe, according to Enda Kenny, our Fine Gael Taoiseach. If only life was as straight forward as that. Listen, Enda lied to get elected. That’s the story. No more, no less.

So, angry and frustrated I head into the shower. Lovely moments alone, with the sound of the water caressing you for those few minutes. Maybe after Enda’s Government start rationing water, charging us enormous amounts to actually use the water.. I’ll have to take a quick shower. To think that we’re a small island surrounded by water ! The loss of my only morning pleasure will be a sad day. Maybe I could give the dogs half a bowl of water instead of two. That would conserve some water… or maybe that would be cruel. Will the Minister make a Doggies allowance for us? Will he hell.

It’s now mid morning. All my calls, bar one, have rung out. I’ve left message after message but so far, nobody has phoned me back. No, after checking, it is indeed A.M. not P.M. and it is a weekday, not the weekend or indeed a Public Holiday. What to do. Sure maybe I’ll write this weeks Blog. Yes I’ll do that.. Wait, a phone call for me. Great, ‘Hello Tom Baldwin, who am I speaking to?’ Oh no, ‘I don’t want to talk to you ! No, my computer is fine. No, no …’ While I try to be civil to this foreign gentleman, I end up telling him to ‘Feck Off’ and slam the phone down. Maybe that will have the effect of me being deleted from their database. Wait, was that the guy or was that in fact my Bank? Now, I’m not sure. After some moments I decide that it could have been the Bank. Well, if so, I gave them the right answer.

Nearing lunchtime, I’m home and sitting down working on research for my Blog. Then, at the door I hear a shriek.., ‘Aarsse’. I know that sound. It’s Toes, my grandson, coming to visit me. So, off to play then. After lunch it’s clear said Grandson is getting narky. I ask him if he wants to go to bed? Shake of the head indicates No. I’m not convinced. Are you sure I ask him. Same response. After some time playing with the Dogs and the Parrots I ask again, as I’m unconvinced that he is sufficiently alert to last the afternoon. So, upstairs to bed, turn on Daughter No.2’s Red Hairdryer and put Toes to bed. As I lay on the single bed beside him I start to feel guilty as I wave to him. Hold on, he’s dropping off. Yes, result ! Problem is that I’m doing the same. OK, back to the computer. I wonder will any of those gentlemen and ladies of my esteemed profession actually return any of my calls ??  Well, I suppose, I can only live in hope…..

LegalEagleStar  Tuesday , 12th. July , 2011.

%d bloggers like this: