Law Society Council Update October 2018

It’s been a while since my last update, as I was on holidays in July when the last Council meeting took place. Our current meeting was originally due to take place at the end of September, but that meeting was rescheduled to Friday, 5 October, when I will also, unavoidably, be away. So here I intend to bring you what I can from the July meeting together with anything else that has come across my radar in the meantime.

As previously, 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.

Professional Indemnity Insurance Regulations 2018

Continuous work on PII regulations and the PII cover situation generally is the kind of essential but thankless work that Council, or more particularly, members of the PII Committee, led by the indefatigable Richard Hammond, do on behalf of members on an ongoing basis.

The most recent regulations were passed by the Council at its meetings in July and are now here.

The current changes are primarily concerned with housekeeping matters and a full review of regulations is expected to commence in 2019. There are changes to deal with practical situations arising from insurers exiting the market mid-year and insolvency events. Of practical note to members may be an obligation introduced by the current regulations to provide basic details of the outcome of arbitrations which occur in relation to coverage disputes, to provide the committee with something more than anecdotal data on these situations without unduly compromising the privacy of the parties.

The Committee had expressly included working as a patent agent, a registered trademark agent or a European trademark design attorney, within the definition of “legal services” for the purpose of the Regulations.

Legal Services Regulation Act 2015

Implementation of this act and establishment of the Authority as a functioning regulator (with the associated changes to the regime for the assessment of legal costs) continues to trundle along. The Authority seems primarily taken up with the myriad of reports that it is required to conclude by tight statutory deadlines provided for in the legislation. The Society has been involved in preparing extensive submissions for each of these reports. There are a number of practical measures that the Authority requires to have in place before it can move forward with commencement of various aspects of the Act, for instance, because the Authority will be regulating both branches of the profession it must have a Roll of Practising Barristers in place first, something which did not exist in a unified form previously, apparently, and which seems to be taking a while. Overall, the rate of progress here remains pretty glacial but at least it does seem to be accepted that it would be preferable to have this major change carried out correctly rather than quickly, and the two appear to be mutually exclusive; or at least have proved so to date.

Solicitor Education

I never gave you a report of the June meeting before this; usually I prepare my report of the previous meeting immediately before the following one, and as I was away for July, I never got to do a report on our meeting in June. The vast bulk of the June meeting was taken up with a presentation on solicitor education, based on the report of the Future of Solicitor Education Review Group chaired by Mr Justice Peart. The presentation to Council was made by Carol Plunkett, the vice chair of the Review Group, along with the Director, and Deputy Director, of Education T.P. Kennedy and Geoffrey Shannon respectively. The report comprises a huge body of work that was undertaken at extremely short notice in order to enable the Society to be in a position make a submission to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority on education before the statutory deadline imposed by the authority. Given that the view formed by the Authority on this subject will shape the future of legal professional education, and consequently, the future of the profession itself, this seemed to me to be one of the more important issues to come before Council in my time there so far. The matter was the subject of extensive debate at Council and, while it was decided that the report should be submitted to the Authority in advance of the deadline imposed by it, it should be noted that this matter was the subject of diverse views within Council, reflective of the diversity of views within the profession, and is therefore a subject on which we can expect more frequent debate in future.

Personal Injuries Commission

The report of the Personal Injuries Commission has been published since the last meeting in July and you can now access it here.

It’s worth your time to review it.

It feels like the Society is a lone voice in speaking up for innocent accident victims, and again this is a role that the Society has consistently performed in public debate on this issue. And when you think about it, while there are powerful and effective lobbies from numerous vested interests calling for curtailment of the right to compensation for personal injury, victims tend to be disparate individuals with no organised voice. It seems like anything goes in the media at present in terms of denigrating those who have been unfortunate enough to have suffered a serious injury as a result of the fault of another requiring a remedy through the courts, where they are regularly smeared as gamblers, fraudsters, etc.

Stuart Gilhooly put in a huge amount of work in representing the Society, and indirectly, the position of plaintiffs in this process. While the Commission’s report certainly seems to find awards in Ireland in relation to whiplash out of line with the position internationally, in terms of possible alternatives, the recommendation by the Commission that this be considered by the proposed Judicial Council means that any reform in this area will be subject to judicial oversight and this seems to me to be welcome and the best hope that we can have that a balanced view will be taken of what needs to be done in the circumstances.

Review of the Administration of Civil Justice

This review is ongoing and has been delegated to sub-committees. It is expected to be a further year before the review will conclude a final report.

Crowe Horwath Review of Challenges and Opportunities for Sole Practitioners and Small Firms

This was a survey of firms and their clients commissioned by the Society on the challenges and opportunities facing sole practitioners and small firms. While there was a reasonable response rate from firms, I understand that the response from clients was, perhaps understandably, a little disappointing. I understand that a number of focus groups have also been held and that it is hoped to have the results of the survey shortly.

That’s it from me for the October update. The current meeting of Council will be this Friday, 5 October but I am unable to attend due to a prior commitment. The next meeting of 2018 will be on 9 November and I will be in touch prior to that.

On that, there is, of course, the minor question of a Council election in the meantime and whether or not I will be in attendance on 9 November will depend on the outcome of that election, in which I have decided to put myself forward as a candidate.

Whatever the outcome of the election, I do hope that you have found these Council updates useful over the last two years; I have found my time on Council and the time spent putting these together for your very rewarding and worthwhile.

There is an understandable tendency within the profession to view Council and the Law Society with a jaundiced eye; as someone who had previously been a complete outsider, I shared that point of view.

My very limited involvement has changed my view somewhat, and I hope that you will have gotten some idea from these updates of what goes on there, much of which is important and valuable work done entirely by volunteers for no personal gain to speak of (or at least if personal gain is what you’re after, it would seem to me there are far more effective things you could be doing for yourself).

In any event, in so far as the election goes, all I will say is that you have a vote and you should exercise it, no matter who you decide to vote for.

All the best,


P.S. One of the biggest CPD challenges I find that I face as a managing partner is getting that elusive mandatory hour of regulatory CPD on AML; all compliance partners and sole principals are obliged to have it. I am still short my hour in this area and so I’ve decided the only thing for it is to do it myself.

Therefore, I’ll be holding a very special, completely free (with no offers and no strings attached) webinar on Anti Money Laundering Compliance for Solicitors which will qualify for one hour of regulatory (AML) CPD by e-Learning on Tuesday, 16 October 2018 at 1pm. To register just go here. There will be a replay of the webinar provided shortly after the live event concludes, so even if you can’t make it live, register and you’ll get the video which you can watch at a time and place of your choosing to get you that vital hour boxed off if you need it.