Law Society Council Update November 2017

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.

Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015 Update


The implementation required by Act is something that seems to trundle along at a relatively glacial pace.  In fact, most updates that I can recall involve a further pushing out of the date by which it is expected that anything is to be done.  I believe it is now estimated that it will be the first quarter of 2019 at least by the time the Authority will be able to commence any of its functions.

The Authority now as a permanent CEO, Dr Brian Doherty.  Dr Doherty is a qualified barrister called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1996.  Prior to this, he has worked in the office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland as Director of Investigations.

Setanta Case – Update

While awards in the Setanta case are being paid from the Insurance Compensation Fund it appears that cheques are being sent directly to claimants from the Accountant’s Office of the High Court.  The Society has made representations on the difficulties that this could give rise to, particularly where undertakings have been given by the solicitor in relation to payment from the proceeds of the award.  This matter is ongoing and it is understood that the next tranche of payments are expected in February 2018 and the Society hopes to make progress on this issue in the meantime.

Proposed Amendment of Bye-Law 9(3)

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.

At the Council meeting in September, a motion proposed for the AGM to amend Bye-Law 9(3) was approved.  Essentially the motion proposes to 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 passed with a slight amendment at the AGM.

Family Law Code of Practice


On behalf of the Council the President thanked and congratulated the Family Law Committee, in particular its Chairman, Keith Walsh, on the preparation and launch of the amended Family Law Code of Practice which received a very positive reception in the media.

A huge amount of work was put into the amended Code which is very important for solicitors engaged in family law work.  if you practice in this area and you are not already familiar with the new Code, you can find a copy here.  If you don’t practice in the area directly, please be sure to spread the word as this is an important resource for practitioners that needs to get out there.

Introduction of Minimum Financial Rating requirements for Participating Insurers

Prior to this, the Society has not chosen to impose minimum financial rating requirements for participating insurers, leaving it to individual members to take personal responsibility for these decisions.  A detailed report on this issue was brought to Council by Richard Hammond, Chairman of the PII Committee.  While there are arguments and merits on both sides, on balance it was decided that now is the time to introduce minimum financial rating for participating insurers and this was approved by Council, primarily in the interests of public protection.

Report of the Regulatory Defence Costs Insurance Working Group


At the 2015 AGM a motion was passed requiring the Society to investigate the question of the provision of general insurance for members against the costs of defending respondent solicitors in certain regulatory fora.  A working group established following the 2015 AGM has been considering this issue in the meantime, Chaired by Richard Hammond.  Mr Hammond outlined the work that has been done by the working group and confirmed that its report and recommendations would be made to the 2017 AGM.

Law Society Council Election Results

The results of the 2017 Law Society Council Elections are here.  These have been formally announced at the AGM.  The Law Society Council elections run on a two-year cycle with half of the seats filled by general ballot coming vacant each year.  Thankfully I didn’t have to run this year, but thank you to all of those kind souls who sent me their best wishes anyway!

Well, that’s it for me for now.  Our next Council meeting will be in December and I’ll be in touch immediately prior to that.