LegalEagleStar

… a kind of Legal Column

Posts Tagged ‘Solicitor

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

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

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https://i0.wp.com/www.csmonitor.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/content/2013/0124-innovation-capplife/14842159-1-eng-US/0124-innovation-capplife_full_600.jpg

 

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

Be careful for what you wish for… Gaza, Ireland & death of our citizens.

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This week we have seen Israel invade Gaza, not for the first time, with the slaughter of  its inhabitants. We’ve also seen the downing of a Malaysian Airlines Jet with the loss of life of those people on board. We’ve witnessed the ongoing dispute with Greyhound Bins who demand massive reductions to workers wages. We’ve also seen the few thugs in the Gardai manhandle citizens, as Vincent Browne likes to refer to us, outside the American Embassy and elsewhere. The sight of ill mannered thugs in police uniforms dragging a man on his head along the road, does nothing to enhance the image of a demoralised police force whose members I’ve found to be, by and large, good people putting their lives on the line to protect us all. We have seen more people dispossessed of their homes by the Banks as well as the horror of suicides devastating our people. Medical cards have been taken away from the sick and elderly and there is the ongoing battle against the privatisation of water and the ensuing water charges being imposed. Property taxes have been introduced by our Government although Enda Kenny, our beloved leader, has been against them in a previous existence.

From atrocities in Gaza to the IMF’s insistence on dumbing down the Health Services in Ireland as too much money was being spent, there is one common denominator. That is that it is people who are the target of all of these measures. Not Giant Corporations or the Banking Community. The Arms Trade is blooming. Maybe pension schemes should invest in this business as it seems to that giant corporations are where your money should be. Definitely not in anything that remotely resembles local business or indeed supporting the citizen and the local economy.

We live in a time when people are being controlled and relabeled not as citizens, but as consumers. The country is not being run to benefit the citizen but to enhance the profits of Big Business in all its guises. When you dehumanize citizens, it is quite acceptable, in their minds, that they can be collateral damage. Sure what if a few thousand are killed or unemployed, or just left to die at the side of the road? Profits are what matters. Businesses that profit the Elites are given tax incentives to come and set up businesses in Ireland today. Our priorities are to enrich these Elites at the expense of the citizen. At the same time services for the citizen are being curtailed while more taxes are being thought up by our Government every other day of the week.

There is more ways than bombing people out of existence, as is happening in Gaza, to control people. The loss of your job, home, medical benefits, social welfare entitlements and the imposition of unjustified taxes on people at the behest of the IMF and their fellow travellers, is indeed akin to actually bombing them out of existence. In Ireland today, people are suffering and dying while others enrich their lifestyles. Our Government have taken directions from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the International Banking fraternity and imposed their directives on the Irish people. These imposed changes are killing our people. Despite the efforts of our marvellous doctors and nurses, people are dying on trolleys in overcrowded hospitals. It is the most vulnerable in our society who are suffering the most but this does not change anything. As a lawyer, I see the high street solicitor and the junior barristers suffering on a daily basis and struggle to survive. These are the lawyers who represent you, the people. I do not see the lawyers servicing the interests of the Corporate set suffer at all. In fact they thrive as they are paid handsomely by Big Business and Governments and International Bankers. The rights of workers are being eroded on a daily basis and these short-term contracts in lieu of proper terms of employment are giving our people no security to enjoy their lives and raise their families with any degree of certainty for the future.

If  history have thought us anything, it’s that war follows on from a recession. With all the political manoeuvring by the super powers, financed by the Elites and the insistence on control of oil and natural resources to call their own regardless of where located, the future does look bleak for the ordinary man, woman and child.  Not so bleak for the Big Corporations who are hungry in their pursuit of financial gain, both short and long-term. Our Government have played and indeed continue to play their part as the good boys of Europe and have not ever taken a stance for the citizens of this country. The continued imposition of austerity, despite the suffering of the Irish people is akin to the imposition of fascism on the nation. No doubt our Ministers, on the instructions of the Government, will follow the party line, so to speak, and give support to those Elites that demand the continuing demoralising of the Irish people for some time to come, while lending our support to whatever super power we’re to be aligned with, regardless of the cost to the Irish people.

We are told we live in a democracy. On a daily basis we see wars fought to bring democracy to people all over the world. Democracy I was taught, was Government by the people for the people. Well the democracy we’re witnessing throughout the world would appear to be fully under the control of Major Corporations whose interest is far from anything that is pro people. Be careful for what you wish for.

 

LegalEagleStar , Monday , 21st. July , 2014.

Could the end of the High Street Solicitor be…. around the corner ?

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No Solicitors!!!

No Solicitors!!! (Photo credit: age3.141592)

I’ve just had the opportunity to glance through the ‘Survey of Irish law firms 2012/13 which landed on my desk today.  The authors of the Survey, Smith & Williamson claim that 93 law firms took part in the Survey: 5 of the top 10; 14 mid-tier and 74 small firms. I must be included in the latter category having completed the Survey. I actually had a few minutes one day and decided to do my duty.  That said, sadly none of my illuminating comments were reported although they claim that ‘a sample of participants’ comments have been included…’

By and large, in my opinion, the Survey is completely unrepresentative of the views of the majority of the profession. The views expressed are clearly of the Elites in the profession who have absolutely nothing in common with the High Street solicitor who the working man/woman has contact with. It’s interesting to read under the heading Impact of the Legal Services Regulation Bill  ‘The Bill proposes the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority  thereby removing the existing self-regulation system by the Law Society and Bar Council…..In spite of concerns regarding Government influence, the Law Society fundamentally altered its stance in April 2012 when it informed members of its formal support for the Authority proposal and stated it would be in the best interest of the public and the profession.’  This is yet another case where the interests of the Elites are indeed served while the independence offered by the High Street Solicitor representing an independent Legal Profession have been dismissed. In future then, the State will control the legal profession with the full support of the Law Society. It’s at times like this that I wonder what my membership of the Law Society is all about. They hold themselves out as representing the interests of the profession. They do not. It is a long time since they have represented my interests or the interests of my colleagues, bar those that serve Government and Multinational Enterprises including the Banks and Insurance Companies. To be fair to the authors of the Survey they do state ‘However, this stance does not appear to currently have the full support of the profession…’

I won’t bore you with further references to the Survey except to say that it is of little or no assistance to the average solicitor who must continue to work hard to etch out a living. Gone are the days of some 50 years ago when the fact of qualifying was enough to guarantee you a certain standard of living. Today the legal professions are not restricted to the sons and daughters of solicitors and those preferred members of society. They are made up of the sons and daughters of the working man who worked hard, night and day, to give their children a chance to pursue a career. The ability to study law was once the preserve of the chosen few. Today lawyers work hard to pursue the rights of their clients regardless of ability to pay and suchlike. That was not always the case. I should, in balance, say that there was always some good people in the profession who acted in such a manner but I believe that they were few and far between.

Over the past couple of years I’d had many a chat with fellow lawyers concerning the future of our profession. Many are close to closing shop. Some time ago, many said, they had purchased the building they worked from with hefty mortgages and now find the cost of repayments are putting an undue strain on their practices. The thought behind this action was to reduce the ever-increasing cost of renting rooms and also to provide for a pension for themselves when they retired. This scenario is not uncommon. It would appear that it is only time for many, before they must cease to practice. The inability to access funds from the Banks among other things has had catastrophic results for them. At a time when they need guidance and assistance from their professional body, they feel ostracised and alone in their fight for survival. Even the need to attend seminars to gain CPD points, while not cheap in itself,  has them away from their practices when there are few enough hours in the working week as it is, to complete their legal work for their clients. It is sad the number of good lawyers, both solicitors and barristers who have had to cease practice over the last few years. Not only is it sad, it’s an absolute disgrace. The loss of these good people is being felt by those of us left to continue in practice. Little or no concern has been expressed by the Professional Bodies and one must wonder whether a return to the elitist ‘closed door’ profession of the past, is the prefered way forward for them.

LegalEagleStar , Monday , 10th December , 2012 .

Note: The No Solicitors Graphic used above is done so with a sense of humour as it is American and has a non-lawyer meaning.

My Late Mother’s Original Will is Missing. Should I be worried ?

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Question from a recent caller.

My mother has recently passed away. I know that she made a will as I have been given a copy of same by the Solicitor who made the will. That Solicitor said that my mother took up the original will but I do not know where it is. What can be done?

In the first instance a thorough search should be made among her papers to see if the original will can be located. You should also check with her bank and with any other Solicitor whom she may have used.

If the will still cannot be located,then it would be as well to consult a Solicitor as an application to the Probate Court for a determination may be required.

That Solicitor will make further and extensive enquiries and may put a notice in the Law Society Gazette to see if any other firm of Solicitors has the original will where it may have been subsequently deposited or knowledge as to its whereabouts.

If the original will cannot be traced,then the question will arise as to whether or not the original will was destroyed by your late mother with the intention of revoking same. If it  was held by her and no one can confirm that it was still in existence after her death ,then there is a presumption that she intended to destroy sameanimo revocandi – unless evidence to the contrary can be produced, although the presumption may be difficult to overcome. If for example, it could be shown that the will was destroyed by accident or if it could be established that your mother did not have the capacity to revoke it during the period when it was in her custody, it may be possible to prove the will on foot of a copy thereof.

Incidentally the presumption of destruction  animo revocandi  does not apply where a will goes missing in a Solicitors office where evidence can be adduced to explain the situation.

If the presumption of revocation cannot be rebutted and she did not make a previous will, she may be deemed to have died intestate or alternatively a previous will made by her may come into effect. It would be as well to get a determination from the Probate Court as to whether or not the will can be proved on foot of the copy and if not as to what is to happen.

I’d like to acknowledge the contribution of Michael O’Dwyer, Solicitor with Early & Baldwin Law Firm for his contribution to this article.

LegalEagleStar , Thursday , 26th. July , 2012 .

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July 26, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Nourish our Youth. Don’t punish them for your own selfish needs.

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English: Bicycle at Inner Temple The sign says...

English: Bicycle at Inner Temple The sign says “do not lock bicycles to these railings”. But this is part of the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court to which all barristers belong. So I am sure that the barrister to whom this bike belongs would be able to make a very convincing legal case as to why the sign does not say what it says! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Lawyers involved in litigation, the 1st. July registers in our minds, as it indicates that the end of the legal term is nigh. The Long Vacation beckons. Litigation lawyers traditionally take the months of August and September off and head off on their holidays. Not so much those involved in Conveyancing and Probate whose vacation can be determined by other factors. For Junior Cert and Leaving Cert students, July is a time when they go on holidays to clear their brains of all the cramming they have undergone in the long months before their exams and the time before they get those dreaded results. What will the future hold for them? Will they get the points needed to launch them into College to undergo that course or degree which will enable them fulfill their dreams?

For others the vacation is over for another year. It’s time to head back to work. In particular July signals the Pre-Season for professional footballers. Some returning to their clubs with whom they are under contract, while others are going on trial for a few weeks to seek out a new club. Others are free agents seeking the next challenge. These players are mostly all good. Their careers are to be determined by the Coaches and Managers they seek to impress. Agents are working night and day to place their players into the right clubs and match them up with teams that they feel will give them the best opportunity to advance in their careers.

Lawyers, in particular the young barristers are a bit apprehensive to say the least. with the antics of Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice. These barristers have qualified after long hours in School. Doing their Junior, then Leaving Certs. Got the points required to study law to get them into the Kings Inns where they worked their socks off to qualify for a career in which few can afford to stay long enough to be successful. Now, at the whim of the said Minister, these young  barristers do not know what the future holds for them. The animosity of the Minister for Justice to their profession is what puts their futures in jeopardy. Not an attempt at reform of the Bar but the denigration of same at the hands of  the aforesaid Minister whose personal vendetta against them is nothing short of  disgraceful.

Whether you’re a secondary school student, a footballer or indeed a young barrister, it is sad that your future can be in the hands of those whose agenda is not honest but fueled by their own ideas of where they want to go regardless of the rights and wrongs they inflict. Let the young people progress in life. Nurture them and let them succeed in their goals. Don’t hold them back just to pursue your own selfish agenda.

LegalEagleStar , Sunday , 1st. July , 2012 .

The Morality of Lawyers acting for Banks

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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

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