Law Society Council Update January 2018

A very belated Happy New Year.  (It is never clear to me each year when we get to stop saying that anyway!)  For various reasons I was unable to bring you a Law Society Council update in December, so this is a double-bill, arising from my attendance at the November and December meetings.

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 proofreading. 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.

New Members and Taking of Office

The November meeting traditionally follows the morning after the AGM of the Society and marks the start of a new Law Society Year.

Council elections are on a two-year cycle with half of the elected positions being vacated and returned each year for a two-year term.  In case you missed them in my last update, the result of the election are here.  The remainder of the Council positions are filled either by nomination from the various Bar Associations and by provincial delegates.  Therefore, the November meeting sees many new members joining the Council and longer standing ones returning.

The November meeting also marks the new term of office of the President and Michael Quinlan is now well ensconced in that role for the coming year.  Patrick Dorgan took the role of senior vice president and Michelle NíLongain took the role of junior vice president.

The President then outlined his priorities for the coming year and these formalities, by necessity, consume a significant portion of the November meeting.

The November meeting was opened by a tribute to the late past president Tom D. Shaw by past president Laurence Shields.  The Shaw family are the only family within the profession to have included three past presidents of the Society among their number Dermot who was president in 1955/6, Tom in 1987/8 and John in 2008/9.  While I did not know Tom Shaw personally and his time in office precedes my time in practice, his contribution to the profession was clearly considerable.

Meeting with the Minister for Justice and Equality

One of the recurring items during my time at Council has been the ongoing campaign by the Society for the restoration of the cuts in criminal legal aid fees.  The President and the Director General met with the Minister on 4 October and this item was top of the agenda.

Unfortunately, the news is not good, in that other than some minor changes in travel and subsistence which will revert to the normal civil service rates, there does not appear to be any prospect of a reversal in cuts for the time being.

While disappointing, it was clear to me from the meeting that this was not for the want of effort on the part of the Society.  It was acknowledged by representatives who are experienced practitioners in this area, and far better versed on this than me, that the Society could not have been better prepared and could not have done more to advance the profession’s position in this area.

Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015 Update

There was little to report in this area at either meeting.  The Authority is continuing to get established and is dealing with very practical matters around premises and resourcing etc.

The introduction of LLPs are a top priority for the Society in this area.  The introduction of the new legal cost regime appears to be the political priority.

Practically speaking, much seems to hinge on the commencement of Part 6 of the Act which relates to complaints and disciplinary hearings which will govern both solicitors and barristers.  On one interpretation, these mechanisms need to be in place before the Authority can commence its work in many other areas.  And there is an awful lot to be done in making this happen.

To my mind a notable feature of the new authority is that it seems to have focussed much of its attention recently on the question of Legal Partnerships, that is new systems for partnerships between solicitors and barristers.  This is despite the fact that there seems to be no real demand for these.

Proposed Amendment of Bye-Law 9(3) and Delegated Authority of the Finance Committee

Bye-Law 9(3) relates to the limit on expenditure on capital projects without the need for approval of the membership in general meeting.  That limit is currently €635,000.  There is also some ambiguity as to what projects might come within the scope of the limit.

A motion to amend Bye-Law 9(3) was passed at the AGM which provided for the increase the threshold for expenditure without the need for approval at general meeting to €2,000,000 and to clarify that the scope of the threshold was to include all major capital projects, not just projects relating to the purchase or lease of property.  This motion was formally adopted at the November meeting.

Council member Imelda Reynolds has taken a particular interest in the question of good governance of the Finance Committee since joining the Council and has highlighted a number of matters, including, in particular, the fact that the Society does not have a stand-alone Audit Committee.

At present the Audit Working Group is a sub-committee of the Finance Committee.  While it has clear terms of reference, there appears to be a strong argument for an audit function that is entirely separate from the Finance Committee function.

This issue was considered at length at the December meeting and will go back to the Finance Committee for further consideration.


Brexit was on the agenda at the December meeting and it is something that the Society is keeping under review.  However, on a practical level, for the time being, it appears to be becoming clear that solicitors from the UK are not coming to Ireland to establish in any large numbers.

eConveyancing Update

The eConveyancing project is ongoing.  The project underwent a major change in direction last year and since then the team have been looking at various international models.  A lot is going on in the background here.

Mediation Act, 2017

While not arising as an issue at the November or December meetings, this is a major item for the legal profession.

The Mediation Act, 2017 was commenced on 1 January 2018 and as of Monday 22 January 2018 new rules are in force in all courts of first instance to the effect that proceedings cannot now be commenced without first having given careful consideration to the prospect of mediation as an alternative.

All practitioners need to be aware of these changes.  There is a brief summary of the changes here.  And the Law Society’s guide to ADR is here.

The new District Court rules on this are here.

The new Circuit Court rules on this are here.

The new Circuit Court Family Law rules on this are here.

And the new Superior Court rules on this are here.

Well, that’s it for me for now.  Our next Council meeting will be on 26 January and I’ll be in touch following that.