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Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund Debacle

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equality

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Many years ago when I heard about the formation of the SMDF,  I was excited because I felt this was a great idea that my Professional Body was endorsing something by Solicitors for the benefit of Solicitors. Great idea. I immediately joined and remained with the SMDF until I observed practises which I disliked. I aired my views and this resulted in one of their senior Solicitors telling me that if the SMDF didn’t cover me then nobody would. I took exception to these remarks and immediately contacted the late Padraic Smith, Insurance Broker who arranged an Insurance Policy for me, at a fraction of what I was paying in Premiums to the SMDF. Remember it is a Defence Fund, not a Policy of Insurance. At the end of the following January I had a visit from The Law Society. This was not a problem and a very nice gentleman carried out an inspection of my Accounts. Upon completion I asked if this was a random visit or were they looking for something in particular. I was horrified to be told that The Law Society had been advised that I was practising without Insurance and I was told (He said “Don’t quote me”) who had reported me. I was horrified, no I was disgusted.

This year, all solicitors, bar the Elite, have had horrendous problems renewing their Insurance Policies. No help was forthcoming from the Law Society. In fact a colleague told me the Society had referred him to the SMDF as a Fund of last resort but had heard nothing back from them. Thankfully he finally got Insurance. There is talk of a New Policy to cover the profession but now I am told this will not take place this coming year because of one reason or another.

We are now being asked, like the Irish People were by Brian Lenihan to trust in him. That the Banks needed saving and we must Guarantee them. We now as a profession are being asked something similar by those who may well have advised Mr Lenihan on his course of action. Instead of the use of the word ‘collegiality’, Lenihan used the word ‘patriotism’.


We have heard both arguments as to why we should or should not Vote for the present Proposal. To ‘save our colleagues’ or not, some say. That is not my reading of the situation. It would appear to me, from a perusal of the very limited information now to hand that some questionable decisions were made by the SMDF as to investment of Funds etc. Maybe the SMDF Members should be investigating the operation of the fund and demanding to know what questions were put to Counsel and what they received by way of Advice. There are too many unanswered questions. To now ask the profession as a whole to Vote Yea or Nay without a full Brief is, I feel erroneous. A lot of Firms have made a hell of a lot of money in Legal Fees as a result of their acting in many Court actions for the SMDF. To now expect the average solicitor, who has been put to the pin of his/her collar in recent times to pay up is quite extraordinary. A lot of solicitors have lost their jobs and many of those who did succeed in getting Insurance Cover have had to dig deep into their own pockets to pay the premiums as many Banks have refused to fund the cost of this Insurance. Where was the leadership of The Law Society when we all needed help then? From the Memorandum of Vincent Crowley provided to us, it shows clearly that The Law Society want to ensure a Yes Vote at all costs. They cannot afford to lose face. They are telling the profession how to Vote not asking them for a Direction. Don’t get me wrong. I admire the majority of the people working in Blackhall Place. They are good people. My grievance is with the Elite, the politicians who want to control us and these people have great power. The majority should be represented not the powerful minority.

Remember when PIAB was proposed by Dorothea Dowling on the instructions of Mary Harney T.D., there were a lot of Conferences convened to discuss the Proposal. I attended one in Trinity College where Ms Dowling clearly set out the proposals and referred to PIAB as a ‘solicitor free zone’. Ken Murphy attended and spoke at this conference on behalf on the Law Society. He said that the Law Society had reservations about PIAB but were not simply against it. At the luncheon recess I was in the company of Ms Dowling and I spoke with Mr Murphy who responded to me that he and the Law Society didn’t agree with my views on PIAB. My views were to fight for the right of the citizen to bring their case before a Court instead of having to have it first submitted to a Government Agency. The introduction of PIAB has contributed greatly to the loss of jobs in the profession. Clearly, The Law Society showed no concern for them as they were “solicitors who advertised” and suchlike. As regards the change in procedure where Solicitors must now give a Certificate of Title to The Financial Institutions instead of the previous system where you closed the purchase at the Offices of the Solicitor for the said Institution, who will stand up and take credit for that disaster? That decision alone has been detrimental to the legal profession. How many jobs lost to the profession by that stroke of genius ? Hasn’t the Profession been brought into disrepute by the actions of some of its members who used this daft change in procedures to enrich themselves? A lot of us spoke about such a thing being possible many years ago but the Law Society was unconcerned.

Please use your Vote, make up your own mind and don’t be taken in by the argument that there are no other options. We are lawyers and deserve better than being told that we must Vote without full disclosure of all the facts. How would you advise your own clients if they sought your advice on such a Vote?


LegalEagleStar , Tuesday , 7th. June 2011.

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