Law Society Council Update April 2017

I attended my fourth meeting of the Council on 3 March last. As always, these updates are subject to the fact that the business of Council is governed by confidentiality, and therefore, restricted to matters falling properly in the public domain generally. And the general caveat applies that these are ephemeral updates that I’m compiling quickly. Therefore, I’m writing and posting this pretty much as it comes out in first draft without detailed proof reading. I offer it as a quick contemporary note of my impressions, it’s not intended to be refined legal writing or my considered opinion on these issues, so please take it or leave it as such. All opinions expressed are my own personal views.

Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015 – Legal Partnerships

It may surprise you to learn that the Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015 has now been commenced for over 6 months.  It was commenced on 1st October 2016 and the six month date was passed on 1st April, no fooling.  Anyway, that six month period has some significance, as you may be aware that various reports are required by the Act within strict time frames.

The first such report was a report on Legal Partnership which was required to be made by the Authority to the Minister within six months of the Authority’s establishment.

Legal Partnerships are a new creature of statute that involve the possibility of partnerships of barristers or partnerships of barristers and solicitors (these are to be distinguished from Multi-Disciplinary Partnerships or MDPs on the basis that the members of Legal Partnerships will all be lawyers.)

The first question that arises is who might want to form a Legal Partnership and are any likely to come into existence.  Presumably this is a question to Authority will consider in its report rather than just deciding to create and make provision for regulating for them anyway, with all of the associated cost that that is likely to entail.

And given that a report on the subject had to be prepared by the Authority by 1st April the Law Society was asked for its submission, but only relatively late in the day in March with a very short response time.  Despite this a detailed submission was prepared and submitted, the overriding theme of  which was the protection of the compensation fund.  We can only wait and see what the upshot of it all will be.

Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2016

The main item on the agenda at the last meeting was the question of the Law Society’s submission on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2016.  This took up most of the meeting and was the subject of an outstanding presentation and subsequent discussion.  I can’t go into the detail of what was covered here suffice to say that this struck me as an example of the Council performing a genuinely useful and important role in the formation of policy on a subject that may have much wider implications for the administration of justice and society as a whole as a result.

A cynic might have asked whether anything the Society says is likely to make any difference and, if that is in fact the case, whether it should say anything controversial in the circumstances.  Indeed a cynic might say that the whole JAC proposal is just a smaller fig leaf than the JAAB so why bother at all.

Well, I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating and I suggest that you read the Law Society’s submission for yourself which is here.

I say the proof of the pudding is in the eating in that it would appear from media reports that the Law Society’s submission has indeed been listened to in Government and may have a pivotal role to play.

I was impressed by this as, before the contributions made at Council on the last occasion, I did not entirely agree with the position being advocated on behalf of the Society.  Though having heard what was said, the intellectual basis for the Society’s submission is compelling as far as I am concerned.  Essentially the role of choosing judicial replacements is not a judicial role, when you take this as your starting point, the idea of a lay chair and a lay majority on the JAC follow directly.  This is not about some parochial view of promoting solicitors in a world previously dominated by barristers, it is about ensuring the best judges for our society and paying more than lip service to the idea of diversity in the process.  It seems to me that the Society is very well served by this submission and it was a good day’s work on the Council in approving it.


Brexit was the other main item on the agenda at the last Council meeting.  A very detailed memorandum on Brexit and its implications for the profession has been prepared and was considered by Council.  As with everything around Brexit we are dealing with an awful lot of guesswork and speculation, but all of the potential issues that one might reasonably foresee appear to have been reviewed.

There has been an increase in the numbers coming on the roll, there has been an increase in practising certificates, but not a huge one.  We have not seen many boots on the ground in terms of lawyers and firms actually establishing in practice here but the word on the street seems to be that there is a lot going on behind the scenes.  One could envisage a situation where things change dramatically and quickly through mergers here etc.  Certainly, our profession is tiny by reference to that in the UK and any large influx from there to here could have a significant impact on the complexion of the profession.  Frankly, who knows.

The one thing I do know (and this most certainly was not discussed at Council) is that most people find it far more interesting to sit around worrying about macro issues like Brexit rather than to roll up their sleeves and do stuff for themselves in their own lives.

Brexit is a reality; we’ll have to deal with it; we will.

One of the major changes Brexit has made in my life is it’s got me reading the Eurlegal section in the Gazette.  I had previously glossed over it routinely on the way to all the bad stuff in the back.  But recently I’ve been paying attention to it and, you know what, there’s some really useful material there.  Cormac Little has had a couple of really excellent articles on the Article 50 litigation in the UK there in recent months, they’re worth going back over if you didn’t see them at the time.  Whatever Brexit is going to bring we’ve all got a responsibility to get more informed around these issues and the practical implications they are going to have for us in our individual practices.

Member Logo

The new member logo is something positive that has come from the Society recently.  I mentioned that this was on the way back when I started these updates.  The background to this is that Sonia McEntee and Richard Grogan brought a motion at the AGM before last seeking to allow members of the profession to use the Law Society’s logo to clearly differentiate themselves as practising solicitors, duly qualified and regulated by the Law Society.

The upshot of this was that it was proposed to develop a special members’ logo for this purpose, which members could use on their stationary and their websites etc.  Well the logo has finally been developed and was launched in March.  You can find details of it here and if you haven’t already done so, it would be well worth incorporating this into your branding.

You’re paying a lot and carrying a heavy burden of regulation to be a member of the Law Society, you might as well make that a point of difference in your marketing.

Practice Direction on Taxation of Costs

Finally, while not something that was covered at the last Council meeting, I received an email from the DSBA during the week notifying me of the introduction of a new practice direction enabling payments on account of costs pending taxation.  It’s here.

The text of the practice direction is as follows:

“In view of long delays in the taxation of costs, the attention of practitioners is drawn to the provisions of Order 99, rule 1B (5).

I direct that in all cases where there is no dispute as to the liability for the payment of costs and in any other case which a judge thinks appropriate, an order may be made directing payment of a reasonable sum on account of costs within such period as may be specified by the judge pending the taxation of such costs. Such orders may be made on an undertaking being given by the solicitor for the successful party that, in the event of taxation realising a smaller sum than that directed to be paid on account, such overpayment will be repaid.

This practice direction shall come into effect on Monday, 24th April, 2017”

This strikes me as a very welcome development for all practitioners given that ongoing dysfunctional nature of our taxation of costs system.  It would appear that the DSBA has been very active in working for this via their working group.  On that note, I can’t recommend DSBA membership highly enough to anyone, no matter where in the country you happen to practice.  The membership fee is some of the best money you’ll spend and very reasonable to boot.

Well that’s it for me for this month.  There’s no Council meeting in May.  Our next Council meeting is on 8th June and you’ll hear from me again shortly before that.