Law Society Council Update November 2016

As part of the Council campaign, I said that I would provide you with a report after each Council meeting and, as promised, here we go. But before we start, a bit of housekeeping:

First off, on becoming elected I familiarised myself with the Law Society Council Regulations, Regulation 24 of which obliges a member to keep confidential all matters coming to within his knowledge arising from his membership of the Council or any of its committees.

So, obviously, this obligation will limit the extent you which I may be able to report to you on the actual business of Council.

However, it would seem to me that there are many things arising at Council that are in the public domain, albeit perhaps not that well known about. And I expect that there will resources for the profession that come to light that can usefully be shared through this channel. How, exactly, this will work in practice is something that I will just have to see as I go along and I would ask that you bear with me.

Secondly, this is an ephemeral update that I’m compiling quickly. Therefore, I’m writing and posting it pretty much as it comes out in first draft without detailed proof reading. I offer it as a quick contemporary note of my impression, 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 of that said, here’s my first update:-

Law Society AGM

Yes, I know this is a Council update, but the Law Society AGM immediately precedes the first Council meeting of the year and is the fulcrum around which the Law Society year pivots.

The first thing that strikes me about the AGM is the attendance; it is appalling. Apart from those required to be there, e.g. Law Society employees, Council members and election candidates, you could count the number of members in attendance on two hands, without having to take off either sock. That’s disappointing. I have since been at the Southern Law Association AGM which was packed. I don’t say this in a smug Cork way, but the contrast was remarkable. The notable differences that struck me were CPD points and the free availability of alcohol beforehand!

Despite that there were a number of very good reasons for attending the AGM.

First, was the report on the outcome of the deliberations on the development of a logo for use by members. There was a motion at last year’s AGM to allow practitioners to use the Law Society logo on their letterhead and website, to denote that they were qualified and regulated solicitors with practising certificates. In the event, the motion was amended to request the Society to consider developing a logo specifically for members to use and to report back to this year’s AGM. That report is here.

You will see that we now have a logo that practitioners can use to show that they are solicitors and members of the Law Society. This is very welcome having regard to the fact that many of us face competition from unqualified and unregulated parties who describe themselves as “lawyers” and this will be a demonstrable point of difference.

You will note from the report that the logo is to be made available to members in the first quarter of 2017, so keep an eye out for that. If you are considering a revamp of your letterhead or your website you might consider holding off until you have the logo, or, much better, don’t use this as a reason to procrastinate in any step to advance your practice but rather get moving with your changes and be ready to incorporate the new logo as soon as it is available, now that you know exactly what it is.

The second thing of special note from the AGM was the work that has been done by the Law Society library on the Society’s records and archives. A large volume of the Law Society’s extensive records dating back to its establishment have been completely restored and many of them have been digitised. The digitised archive is now available from the Law Society libraries website. I don’t have a link to the archive itself, but from memory from the AGM you need to contact the library to get log in details.

The library page on the Law Society website is here where you can get contact details and a link to the library page itself if you’re interested.

On the question of attendance at the AGM, a point that was worth noting was that there was an excellent and interesting presentation on the work done on the archive at the AGM, but it didn’t appear on the agenda at all, so members who might have been interested had no opportunity to attend. Clearer communication in advance on items of interest like this might help with attendance.

November Council Meeting

I had been told that the first Council meeting of the year is not typical as much of it is taken up with the outgoing President stepping down and the newly appointed officers taking up their roles. And this was indeed the case. Apart from that, there are a few points worth noting:

Legal Services Regulation Act

One of the main reasons I decided to get further involved in Law Society matters was because of the degree to which I was impressed by the colleagues that I have seen doing prodigious amounts of voluntary work for the benefit of the profession, and those involved in the Legal Services Regulation Act Task Force are a classic example of this.

There is not much to report as of now other than to state that a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to prepare practitioners for the changes that will flow from the introduction of the new legislation.

The Authority has now been formally established and the establishment date set as 1st October 2016. This is important as it starts the clock ticking on various time periods set by the legislation. But the Authority has now to appoint a chief executive, acquire premises and generally establish itself properly before much will happen.

In the meantime, I would commend to you the Legal Services Regulations Act web page of the Law Society’s website. This is where updates, information and precedents will be kept together as time goes on and is well worth referring to and returning to regularly. It’s here.


The sale of the SMDF was finally concluded on the eve of the first Council meeting on terms that are favourable to the profession. You should have received an email from the President dated 9th November 2016 with full details.

Setanta Case

You may be aware that the High Court decided that the MIBI was responsible for the Setanta cases. That decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal which confirmed it. This was again appealed to the Supreme Court who heard the matter in October. A decision is awaited.

Crisis in Taxation

There is a crisis in taxation and the Law Society has been referring to it as such for some time. We currently have two Taxing Masters, apparently one of whom is due to retire by the end of 2016 and the other in early 2017. The issue arises with the appointment of new Taxing Masters as we are in somewhat of a hiatus before the coming into operation of the Authority. Apparently there is a view that any new appointees should be Legal Costs Adjudicators appointed under the new legislation.

The Law Society have been pressing the Department for action on this given the prospect that we could shortly have a situation where we have no one in office to tax or adjudicate on costs. I understand that a meeting with the Minster is imminent, if it hasn’t already taken place, and this item is top of the agenda.

In the meantime, the advice is to use whatever means necessary to resolve costs in any other way that you can. Costs can of course be agreed and I am aware that certain defendants are being quite constructive on agreeing innovative methods for resolving costs in the circumstances. Obviously, there are some contentious cases where there is nothing for it other than to get a certificate of taxation that you can enforce, but the message is, if there are any other options available use them.

Sheehan v Corr

This is somewhat related to crisis in taxation in that is relates to the way in which costs are measured. In Sheehan v Corr the President of the High Court made significant reductions to a bill that had been taxed. This was appealed to the Court of Appeal and Cregan J gave a decision in that case which took issue with the format of the traditional costs accountant’s bill used for taxation and essentially held that costs should be measured based on the time spent on the matter. This has since been appealed to the Supreme Court and on Thursday last the Law Society was joined to those proceedings as amicus curiae. I believe that the Bar Council are also seeking to be joined on the same basis if they have not already been joined zoloft medication.

Obviously, we will need to await the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal, but in the meantime, we have uncertainty surrounding the correct basis for the taxation of costs and this is not helping an already strained taxation system.

Costs in Criminal Legal Aid

The Criminal Legal Aid scheme suffered swingeing cuts in the economic downturn. I don’t practice in this area, but I was impressed to see among the papers for the first Council meeting a detailed discussion document that is being prepared for a meeting the Minister and the Department. This is a high priority and, along with taxation of costs, will be on a short list of priorities at the meeting with the Minister. Obviously, there is now a long queue of those seeking restoration of cuts made in every area of public expenditure, but it would appear that the Law Society is not to be found wanting in representing your interests in this regard.

Judicial Appointments

There are many aspects to this, and perhaps the most publicised is the Minister for Transport’s objection to any new appointments until certain of his criteria have been met. The appointments system will need to change and this appears to me to represent an opportunity for us as practitioners to have input into this and I know that the Society is very much alive to this issue. First of all, we need judicial vacancies to be filled urgently. Secondly, we need to end the prejudice, conscious or unconscious, against solicitors as suitable candidates for appointment to judicial vacancies in the superior courts. It is clear to me that the Society is keenly aware of and active on both of these counts.

Ok, that’s it for this update. The next Council meeting is on 2 December and you will hear from me again following that.