The Law Society of Ireland is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors’ profession in Ireland
'Resilient, Supportive, Essential'
The Law Society exercises statutory functions under the Solicitors Acts 1954 to 2015 in relation to the education, admission, enrolment, discipline and regulation of the solicitors’ profession. These statutory functions are exercised by the Council or by committees to which the Council delegates those statutory functions. It is the professional body for its solicitor members, to whom it also provides services and support.
The Law Society is governed by a Council, comprising elected and nominated members of the solicitors’ profession. The director general is the chief executive of the Law Society, with all of the powers and responsibilities usually vested in a chief executive.
A new Council is elected every year in November. It delegates statutory functions to a range of committees. A president and two vice-presidents are elected each year from among the elected Council members.
When I took office in November 2019, in addition to representing the profession at ceremonial events nationally and internationally, I expected to lead the profession through a variety of predictable challenges – challenges that would inevitably affect smaller and larger practices in different ways and, indeed, challenges common to both.
“Communication with the profession was my key priority throughout the crucial March to June 2020 period”
I had a plan and, with the support of the Council, I was going to execute it with precision. As we all know, an important tool in our armoury of life is to have an ability to change our path, to adjust and adapt. Never was this more tested than over the last eight months.
The speed, scale, depth and duration of the challenges that faced the profession and society since 12 March 2020 were, by any standard, impossible to predict and difficult to confront. They demanded an individual and collective resilience and response. They demanded a willingness to acknowledge that our lives were, without warning, rapidly changing – and we needed to proactively respond, adjust and adapt.
From my interaction with colleagues, I can state without fear of contradiction that no part of legal practice and no part of the profession was immune from the inevitable challenges caused by the restrictions necessitated by the State’s response to COVID-19.
Communication with the profession was my key priority throughout the crucial March to June 2020 period. This communication needed to be immediate and relevant to reassure the profession and to provide much-needed guidance and support, as we were all in unchartered waters and, although a cliché, ‘we were all in this together’.
I issued 34 eBulletins during that time, covering everything from the unprecedented logistics of court sittings, advice on wills and probate-related matters, updates on practice-related and management advice, IT steering, information on much-needed financial supports, and guidance on issues from anti-money laundering to wardship – and everything in between. I was adamant to identify any roadblocks to practice and access to justice, and that the Law Society would find workarounds where possible and lobby where necessary. I received unstinting input from the Law Society’s committees in that endeavour, as evidenced in the President’s eBulletins.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank each colleague who took the time and trouble to provide valuable feedback, suggestions and support during this time. Difficult and complex issues crossed my desk, and your feedback and support have been of enormous value to me, the Law Society, and the profession.
As well as the urgent measures put in place to ensure continuity of access to justice, the reality of living with COVID-19 necessitated medium and long-term cultural changes. Our Council and committee meetings now look remarkably different, and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We have, by necessity, had a combination of hybrid virtual meetings and full Zoom meetings. I expect that practices throughout the country have similarly adapted their operations, and that technology has become a key component of our office infrastructure – and is also a means of futureproofing our businesses.
Protecting your mental health, managing your resilience, and seeking help when needed has never been more important. The Society’s focus on the wellbeing of solicitors was put under the spotlight during the crisis. We prioritised and brought forward a number of key projects to help meet the coronavirus challenge.
In April, LegalMind, a new mental-health support for solicitors and their dependents, was launched. Independent, confidential, low-cost and accessible, it is there for you and your colleagues to help navigate any personal or professional challenges. Please use it.
In June, I welcomed commitments from the new Government on a number of priority topics across the spectrum of law, crime, justice and reform. Long-needed commitments to publish a Family Courts Bill and assurances on family law court facilities in Dublin and nationwide were especially significant. I was also heartened to see clear prioritisation of insurance reform and hate-crime legislation. You can read a synopsis of the Programme for Government as it relates to the justice sector at www.lawsociety.ie.
The significant record investment in justice announced by Budget 2021 will preserve access to justice during the pandemic and enable the courts system to take advantage of modern technology.
Solicitors, as we know, possess all of the skills, knowledge and experience to become senior counsel and, in July, it was a great honour for me to welcome the historic moment when we, as a profession, were invited for the first time to apply for Patents of Precedence.
The first 17 solicitors to become senior counsel received their patents in an official online ceremony on 9 October. What a proud moment for the profession – long may we push boundaries and set examples of professional excellence.
Finally, in addition to thanking my Sligo colleagues, and, indeed, all my colleagues, who have generously accommodated my absence from the office, I wish to thank my sister Dervilla for steering the ship in our practice, thereby enabling me to devote the last 12 months to be at the helm of the solicitors’ profession. While opportunities to meet with colleagues across the country have sadly been limited during my term in office, it has been my privilege to lead the profession at this extraordinary moment in global history. Hopefully, the plan I executed has demonstrated to you that we are all part of a Law Society that values and supports its members, and we will continue to do so as we navigate the unpredictable road ahead.
Resilient, supportive, essential – over the past year, the solicitors’ profession has stood strong and shown itself to be all of that, and more.
It has been no small task for the Law Society to support the very different way of working for the profession
Whether it was in business, family, criminal, employment law or any other issue, at no point during the worst days of the COVID-19 crisis did access to justice stop being a requirement. As designated ‘essential-service providers’, solicitors adapted quickly and remained open for business.
With no end in sight, members of the profession are still representing, mediating, negotiating, advising and problem-solving. Large firms and small have adapted and are working relentlessly to serve their clients and communities in the face of enormous challenges and, for that, we should be proud. The Law Society’s advertising campaign reminds the public that your solicitor is there for you, in your corner, providing advice you can trust.
It has been no small task for the Law Society to support the very different way of working for the profession. Across the organisation, staff worked hard to safely meet deadlines and deliver services, publications, advice and support. I can only give the briefest snapshot of the many tasks, projects, regulatory work and supports devised, adapted and delivered to the profession in the midst of the crisis. Two important streams of practical crisis support for firms and individual solicitors were introduced. If you or your firm need guidance on any queries or concerns related to the business of being a lawyer during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Society is here for you.
Vital, constant engagement with the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Courts Service and other State bodies, as well as our colleagues across the professions, continues as reaction to the pandemic evolves. We will ensure that you are kept up to date with important matters, and will continue to share your valuable feedback with decision-makers to ensure that access to justice is preserved. Dedicated anti-money-laundering (AML) guidance and fraud/identity-theft prevention solutions during the coronavirus, alongside online AML training, was developed and delivered, and our vital regulatory work has been adapted to meet public health guidelines.
Having reached new heights in progress and innovation in solicitor training and education with the launch of the new PPC Hybrid and the streamlined FE-1, the Law School turned its considerable expertise to bringing the Professional Practice Course, diplomas, seminars, committee events and workshops of all kinds online when COVID-19 hit.
For almost two decades, the Law Society has been urging the Government to introduce limited liability partnerships (LLPs) as an option for partnerships of solicitors in Ireland. The announcement that solicior partnerships would be able to register as LLPs from 1 November 2019 was a very welcome culmination to our campaign. It is, quite simply, one of the most significant changes in terms of daily legal practice under the Legal Services Regulation Act. However, the work is not complete: we will continue to engage with Government and the new authority to ensure that this protection is extended also to sole practitioners.
Having announced the admission of record numbers of England and Wales solicitors to the Roll of Solicitors, the Society’s work on the challenges and opportunities of Brexit continues. So, too, does our engagement with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority and the wind down of the Society’s complaints function.
Backed by research, vital practical supports for solicitor wellbeing, and mental-health tools and resources, were developed and brought together when the Professional Wellbeing Project was launched in October 2019. Please do take the time to visit the Wellbeing Hub.
The enormous task of launching an up-to-date, fully digital eCompendium to the Solicitors Acts, as well as tools to help members use it effectively, was completed in April of this year.
We launched the Small Practice Traineeship Grant Scheme in the summer, marking an important milestone in the Society’s strategic plan to boost smaller rural firms and make significant changes to solicitor training, with a focus on diversity, inclusion and student-centred delivery. The Law Society’s committees, working groups and task forces continue to work hard on practice and policy matters, and the Small Practice Business Hub is continuously updated with rich, relevant content for smaller firms and sole practitioners.
We persevered in ensuring that the voice of the victim was central in the ongoing debate on insurance and personal-injuries damages, and underlined the importance of the continued enhancement of children’s rights as a Government priority.
It is difficult to neatly summarise the year gone by. The shared experience of COVID-19 and its myriad impacts have highlighted how resilient, collaborative, adaptable and committed solicitors are as a profession. Whatever challenges and opportunities lie ahead, we will continue to stand strong, and rise to meet them.
The Law Society of Ireland’s Strategy Statement 2019-2023 sets out the strategic objectives that the Society will follow.
We will be a valued resource for our members
RAPID RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Society and its committees reacted rapidly to support solicitors and their practices during an unprecedented time of uncertainty. Communication was a key priority, which provided immediate and valuable guidance and support. A total of 34 President’s Bulletins were issued from March to June. In addition, the Society’s dedicated COVID-19 Support webpage provides important updates on legal, business and wellbeing matters.
CELEBRATING 100 YEARS OF WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION
In December 1919, the enactment of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women to enter the solicitors’ profession. The Law Society’s fourth female president, Michele O’Boyle, noted the significance of her presidential year falling during the centenary. To mark the event, the Law Society celebrated International Women’s Day 2020 by championing women in the profession, and by encouraging greater gender equality in the leadership roles of the profession.
LEGALMIND PROVIDES MENTAL-HEALTH SUPPORT FOR PRACTITIONERS
The Law Society initiated its Professional Wellbeing Project for practitioners and trainees on 7 October 2019. Independent research commissioned by the Society had found that 57% of solicitors reported ‘very high’ or ‘extreme’ levels of stress in the course of their daily work. In April 2020, it launched LegalMind, a new mental-health support for solicitors and their dependents. It provides independent, confidential, low-cost support that helps practitioners navigate any personal or professional challenges.
PPC HYBRID – THE NEXT GENERATION
On 10 January 2020, the Law Society welcomed 46 trainees to its campus for the first on-site lectures of the new PPC Hybrid course. Their arrival marked a new chapter in the story of the Law School and the route to becoming a solicitor. The PPC Hybrid course reduces barriers and provides greater access to the profession for trainees from diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds.
NEW PRACTICAL SUPPORT FOR SOLICITORS IN CRISIS
Responding to COVID-19 and the changing needs of solicitors nationwide, the Society launched its Crisis Business Support and Crisis Career Support services. Nearly 400 members have called these helplines to seek assistance with accessing State support, and to look for business and career advice. In addition, hundreds of solicitors have been attending the Society’s online Practice Support Information Sessions, which provide information on how to access State and Law Society supports.
SOLICITOR PARTNERSHIPS REGISTER AS LLPs
Since 1 November 2019, solicitor partnerships have been able to register as Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs). Director general Ken Murphy described it as “the very welcome culmination of a 20-year campaign by the Law Society. It is a modernising measure already available to partnerships of lawyers in many other jurisdictions”. By the end of 2019, a total of 88 valid applications for LLP authorisation had been submitted by law firms, and 28 authorisations were issued by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority.
MEDIA CAMPAIGN REFLECTS IMPACT OF PANDEMIC
A new advertising campaign – online, in print media and on radio stations – was launched by the Society at the end of May. The key messages over a seven-week period let clients know that their solicitors have remained open for business to provide an essential service, and are ‘in their corner’. Radio advertisements were broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1, 2FM, Lyric FM and Today FM, and a selection of local stations. Digital advertisements featured on a range of websites and social media.
LAW SOCIETY GRANT SCHEME FOR RURAL TRAINEE SOLICITORS
The Law Society called on rural solicitors’ firms to apply for the Small Practice Traineeship Grant. It awarded five grants of €25,000 to assist smaller firms and practices with the cost of employing a trainee solicitor. The new financial grant scheme was launched to boost smaller solicitor practices located outside the central training hub of Dublin and the urban districts of Cork, Limerick and Galway.
448 TRAINEE SOLICITORS ADAPT TO ONLINE LEARNING
Almost 450 trainee solicitors made history as the first group to undertake the Law Society’s inaugural online Professional Practice Course 2 (PPC 2). The Society, like other educational bodies, has adapted to the coronavirus in order to deliver 100% of its educational offering online, through pre-recorded e-lectures, workshops and skills sessions, supported by Zoom. PPC 2 is a full-time training course, from April to July, where trainee solicitors return after a year of in-office training.
REACHING OUT TO YOUNG SOLICITORS
A new series of free, online, information sessions for newly qualified and trainee solicitors across the country was launched by the Society in September. The sessions, which last 20-25 minutes, started on 15 September and take place every Tuesday at 7pm up to November, via Zoom. They focus on career management, interview preparation and associated mental-health matters. Organised by the Law Society’s Younger Members Committee, the series invites expert speakers to explore topics of relevance to solicitors in the early stages of their careers.
Smart learning moves with the times
The past 12 months have seen a progressive unfolding of the Law Society’s strategic plan to increase access to and streamline solicitor training in Ireland. Significant innovations have been implemented, with a determined focus on diversity, inclusion and student-centred delivery.
On 1 January 2020, new regulations came into operation that mean that Ireland’s future solicitors can now take the Final Examination First Part (FE-1) earlier in their studies, can sit and pass fewer exams in their first attempt, and have a longer timeframe to pass all eight core subjects.
The changes outlined in the Solicitors Acts 1954-2011 (Apprenticeship and Education) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 provide a more flexible approach to becoming a solicitor.
The FE-1 entrance examination to the Society’s Professional Practice Course (PPC) ensures that trainee solicitors – who come from all backgrounds, degree or no degree – start their practical training in the Law School with a consistent standard of knowledge in the core eight subjects.
The new regulations will reduce barriers and provide greater access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds. The changes are a move towards understanding the lives and adapting to the modern needs of trainees. They will also accelerate access to the solicitors’ profession, potentially shortening the time that graduates spend between university and the start of the PPC.
On 10 January 2020, the Law Society welcomed 46 trainees to campus for the first on-site lectures of the new PPC Hybrid. Their arrival marked a new chapter in the story of the Law School and the route to becoming a solicitor.
The PPC Hybrid course is specifically aimed at delivering a flexible route to solicitor qualification without the traditional requirement to be on-site at Blackhall Place, full-time for a six-month period. It is a reinforcing step in the openness of access to solicitor training. By designing the course specifically to suit people based outside Dublin or with existing work, family or other commitments, the Society has created an exceptionally flexible pathway to the law.
The PPC Hybrid combines online lectures with face-to-face tuition to provide a learner-centred, blended-learning approach to professional training, which enables trainee solicitors of all educational and career backgrounds to pursue qualification as a solicitor.
On 12 February, 42 trainee solicitors were commended for their volunteer contribution at the Society’s annual Street Law conferral.
The Society has been running Street Law since 2013. Originally developed at Georgetown University, Street Law is an initiative that places trainee solicitors with local schools to teach law in a practical way. This year, trainees visited 15 partnering DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) schools to bring the programme to over 500 pupils. Since its inception, more than 3,500 students have completed it.
As part of the programme, trainee solicitors attend an orientation weekend in September. Here they learn how to impart information on the courts system, family law, discrimination law, and sexual offences. In return, Street Law allows pupils to see how the law affects their daily lives and helps promote lifelong civic engagement.
The programme inspires our trainees to break down barriers to the profession and create pathways to law, with some volunteers even organising internships at their firms for pupils in their classes. In the last five years, the Society has expanded the Street Law programme to Wheatfield Prison, Mountjoy Prison, Arbour Hill and Oberstown.
Responding to COVID-19, the Law Society, like other educational bodies, has adapted to deliver 100% of its educational offering online, through pre-recorded lectures, workshops and skills sessions, supported by Zoom.
Almost 450 trainee solicitors made history as the first group undertaking the inaugural online PPC2. (PPC2 is the full-time, on-site training course that runs from April to July, where trainee solicitors return to Blackhall Place after a year of in-office training.)
PPC2 has been adapted for online delivery, with an emphasis on usability, mobile friendliness, and peer-to-peer engagement. The programme provides access to lectures and course materials remotely, to be consumed at the trainees’ own pace.
The new structure provides all the benefits of traditional face-to-face tuition and a sense of connected learning within the virtual classroom. There has been a particular focus on minimising the risks identified in taking online courses, including isolation, unfamiliarity with technology, and disengagement due to ineffective e-resources and instruction.
Throughout PPC2, the Law Society offered free time-concentrated therapy sessions, which support trainees in achieving positive mental wellbeing. The dedicated psychological services team provided counselling through confidential Zoom sessions, in compliance with the highest clinical, safety, and GDPR standards.
In June 2020, the Law Society awarded five grants of €25,000 each to assist smaller firms and practices with the cost of employing a trainee solicitor. This new scheme aims to boost smaller practices located outside the central training hub of Dublin.
Supporting small rural practices with the financial cost of employing a trainee solicitor plays an important role in providing greater access to the profession for trainees from rural and diverse backgrounds. With sole practitioners and smaller practices in almost every small town in Ireland, the Small Practice Traineeship Grant can offer a trainee solicitor the opportunity to stay in their local community, without having to relocate to Dublin.
The Law Society invited transition year and fifth-year students across Ireland to take part in its brand-new, online Legal Ambitions Summer School, which launched on 7 July.
The online summer school covered themes such as social justice, human rights, and climate change. Over four weeks in July, short play-on-demand video interviews and presentations were released, supported by interactive content such as online quizzes and additional educational resources, helping to deepen the learning experience. Potential future solicitors heard from over 30 speakers, including Josepha Madigan TD and Mr Justice Max Barrett discussing their lives in law; Judge John O’Connor examining juvenile justice and the Children’s Court; Dr Ebun Joseph (coordinator, Black Studies and Critical Race Perspectives in Education, UCD); and solicitor Sonia McEntee exploring gender, power and authority. In all, 1,500 pupils from all over Ireland signed up to participate in this outreach programme. The aim is to encourage students to consider a career in law, and to provide insights into the solicitors’ profession.
In April, the Society’s Education Committee moved quickly to ensure that solicitors could complete their 2020 CPD obligations online.
Law Society Professional Training secured grant funding from Skillnet Ireland to deliver free online CPD training to solicitors through two new initiatives, LegalED Talks and ReBound. The former, an online training hub, comprises 21 interactive talks developed to support solicitors during COVID-19. ReBound, hosted on LegalED Talks, is an intensive seven-module, COVID-19 safety, health and welfare at work masterclass. It imparts knowledge to solicitors to enable them to advise SMEs and business owners about the legal implications of new workplace safety protocols for their employees and businesses. Over 6,000 solicitors have used this valuable resource.
The Diploma Centre introduced a suite of initiatives to support the profession in response to COVID-19. Two online courses, the Certificate in Technology Law (14 CPD hours) and the Introduction to Arts, Entertainment and Media Law (eight CPD hours) were provided free of charge to solicitors and trainees. The Certificate in Technology Law proved to be highly relevant in meeting the challenges of COVID-19, as it provided training on data protection, cybersecurity and cybercrime – all essential skills with much of the profession working from home.
The Introduction to Arts, Entertainment and Media Law provided insights into broadcasting, publishing, contractual obligations and litigation in the entertainment industry, as well as copyright and image-rights issues. Over 3,800 solicitors and trainees signed up for both courses.
On 18 February, the Law Society and IMRO jointly hosted a free public lecture, ‘European copyright law from the printing press to the digital age: a journey of constant change’, which traced the evolution of copyright law in Europe over the last six centuries and highlighted how this area of law has had to adapt to the digital age.
This unique partnership emphasises the importance of intellectual property to Ireland’s economic, cultural and creative sectors. In summer 2019, Dr Mark Hyland was appointed inaugural adjunct professor of intellectual property law. Dr Hyland is a solicitor and a lecturer in international intellectual property law at Bangor University Law School, Wales.
The professorship is a key resource to the Society in broadening the knowledge base of trainee and qualified solicitors in the expanding area of IP and copyright law. The expectation is that a solid grounding in this field of law will entice a new generation of lawyers into the music and entertainment industries.
Learn more about our updated eCompendium, heightened focus on members' wellbeing, JMA 2020, advertising campaign and how we have responded to Covid-19.
Professional Wellbeing Project launched in October 2019
The Law Society launched the fully digital eCompendium to the Solicitors Acts during the spring of 2020. It contains all of the primary legislation regulating solicitors and empowering the Society, and includes the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. The decision to publish solely in digital format was taken for environmental reasons, and due to the ever-increasing use of technology by solicitors. All legislation governing the solicitors’ profession is located in one place, saving time and effort. The eCompendium facilitates quick navigation to amending sections in subsequent acts. It enables users to visualise much more quickly the status of amended legislation, with such legislation struck through, as well as cross-references linking to amended or substituted provisions in subsequent legislation. At the same time, users can view legislation that would have been applicable at different points in time.
The Law Society launched its Professional Wellbeing Project for practitioners on 7 October 2019. The project is actively targeting the high levels of stress in the solicitors’ profession.
In independent research commissioned by the Law Society, 57% of solicitors reported ‘very high’ or ‘extreme’ levels of stress in the course of their daily work. The research, conducted by Psychology at Work in 2018, reported that Irish solicitors have a lower wellbeing score than the lowest average population score in the EU. The main stressors are large workloads, high client expectations, and not having enough time to complete their work, among other findings.
Teri Kelly (director of representation and member services) says: “The Law Society’s Professional Wellbeing Project has been designed to address the specific issues our members have told us they experience in the course of their work as solicitors. It aims to address the current stigma attached to talking about, and seeking help for, stress and mental-health issues.”
The service is also available to trainee solicitors through the Law School’s dedicated psychological services facility.
Over 42 PPC1 trainees took part in the Street Law 2019/20 programme. Trainees delivered lessons to transition-year students in DEIS schools and worked with prisoners in Mountjoy and Wheatfield prisons to raise their awareness and understanding of the law.
This year’s Justice Media Awards paid tribute to the high standard of court reporting in Irish media. Conor Gallagher of The Irish Times was presented with the overall award for his article, ‘Ana Kriégel murder trial: the complete story’. The awards ceremony was held online for the first time in the event’s 29-year history. The 33 winners from across 11 categories were announced on 25 June 2020. Law Society President Michele O’Boyle said: “The Law Society particularly commends the exceptionally high quality of court reporting entries for this year’s awards, reflected in the fact that our overall award came from this category.
“The enormous challenge of reporting on one of the State’s most disturbing murder trials, alongside the daily court reports from up and down the country that are so important for the administration of justice, have been recognised and rewarded in this year’s awards.”
A new advertising campaign – online and in national and local media – was launched by the Law Society at the end of May. The key messages of the seven-week-long campaign let clients know that their solicitor’s firm remains open for business, provides an essential service, and is ‘in their corner’.
Radio advertisements were broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1, 2FM, Lyric FM and Today FM, as well as a selection of local stations across the country. The campaign also included a new video-on-demand element, which targeted a wide audience on social media.
Digital advertisements featured on a range of websites – in previous years, this element of the campaign has been extremely successful in reaching target audiences. Launching the campaign, the first print advertisement appeared in The Irish Times on 25 May, targeting a key demographic. It also appeared in a selection of local papers nationwide.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Law Society reacted rapidly to support solicitors and their practices during an unprecedented time of stress and uncertainty.
President Michele O’Boyle said: “As COVID-19 developed and restrictions were put in place, the Law Society acted quickly. Communication to the profession was my key priority throughout the crucial March to June 2020 period. It needed to be immediate and to provide much-needed guidance and support.”
The president issued 34 eBulletins during that time, covering everything from the logistics of court sittings, advice on wills and probate matters, updates on practice-related and management advice, IT, information on financial supports, and the importance of maintaining physical and mental health.
The Law Society and its committees worked hard to find workarounds to any roadblocks affecting practice and access to justice, and lobbied where necessary.
The Society also launched a suite of resources to support solicitors, and established a single source of information on all coronavirus-related matters affecting the profession.
Its COVID-19 Support site on www.lawsociety.ie gives members direct access to all the information they need to deal with the crisis, updating them on Courts Service information, Government supports, providing crisis support, and helping solicitors to keep their businesses operational. The site features:
GEDI fosters a welcoming and inclusive culture
In May 2020, the Law Society launched its Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Charter, an important milestone in a programme of actions and achievements towards making the solicitors’ profession more equal and inclusive for all. Firms are invited to pledge their names to the charter as a demonstration of their commitment to principles of gender equality, diversity and inclusion (GEDI). More detail on the charter and how to sign it are available at www.lawsociety.ie/GEDI.
The charter was developed and delivered by the Law Society’s GEDI Task Force, chaired by Council member Michelle Ní Longáin, which was formed following a motion at the 2018 annual general meeting.
The task force, comprising 16 Law Society members from various minority, disability and LGBT+ backgrounds, began its work in March 2019. Its objectives were (i) to facilitate and encourage more female solicitors and solicitors from diverse backgrounds to run for leadership positions in the profession, and (ii) to provide meaningful resources to improve equality and diversity in the profession.
These aims recognise that the work of achieving equality, diversity and inclusion in the profession cannot rest with individuals from under-represented communities alone. Those currently in leadership must also work towards fostering a welcoming and inclusive culture.
Meaningful change requires meaningful action. In order to deliver meaningful guidance and encouragement on achieving equality, diversity and inclusion, the task force developed an actionable framework of recommendations which were approved by Council in March 2020.
In implementing the recommendations, the task force specifically sought to:
One of the most important questions to ask when reflecting on issues of diversity and equality is: whose voices are missing from the conversation? In order to encourage those colleagues who may be under-represented in the solicitors’ profession to come forward and seek leadership roles, Law Society President Michele O’Boyle led a programme of personal outreach to organisations such as the Irish Women Lawyers’ Association, OUTLaw, the Law Society’s Younger Members’ Committee, and the Society for Young Solicitors.
Alongside that, the president wrote to the managing partners and other leaders within the profession, encouraging them to create space for their staff members to take the leap and commit to greater involvement with the Law Society’s Council and committees.
The Law Society’s own commitment to respecting GEDI principles, for the benefit of its employees, its members, solicitors, trainee solicitors and the public, has been captured in our Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Statement, which you can read at www.lawsociety.ie
It outlines clear commitments to treat everyone fairly, recognise the individual needs of those we employ, represent and educate, support their development, ensure that we are mindful of the language we use, and that the way we work does not put anyone at a disadvantage.
A variety of tools and training opportunities are planned for the short and medium term, including a suite of precedents and CPD offerings. A comprehensive programme of communication to the profession has been planned to bring these opportunities, the principles of GEDI, and the resources to achieve them, to life for members both under-represented and in leadership.
The work of the GEDI Task Force, ultimately, is to help leaders in the solicitors’ profession to take their good intentions and turn them into meaningful changes, which will deliver equality, diversity and inclusion in firms, in the Law Society, and across the profession. Active support and promotion of these principles, and the business benefits of embracing and valuing colleagues from all backgrounds, will be a feature of our work, long into the future.
The Law Society is led on a day-to-day basis by the director general, Ken Murphy, who leads a team of six departmental heads as part of his management team.
The following functional organisational chart provides an overview of the management team and information on the responsibilities of each department.
View a list of Law Society staff.
The Law Society of Ireland is governed by a Council, comprising elected and nominated members of the solicitors’ profession. It also delegates statutory functions to a range of committees.
The Law Society of Ireland is governed by a Council, comprising elected and nominated members of the solicitors’ profession. It also delegates statutory functions to a range of committees.
The purpose of the Council is identified in the charter of 1852 to act “for the better rule and government of the Society, and for the better direction and management of the concerns thereof ”. The statutory functions of the Society, as set out in the Solicitors Acts 1954 to 2015, are exercised by the Council or by committees to which the Council delegates those statutory functions. The Council represents the Society and its members, both in the interests of the public and of the solicitors’ profession generally.
The functions performed by Council can be divided into:
PRESIDENT: Michele O’Boyle
SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT: James Cahill
JUNIOR VICE-PRESIDENT: Maura Derivan
COUNCIL MEMBERS: Christopher Callan, Justine Carty, Helen Coughlan, Brendan Cunningham, Patrick Dorgan, Paul Egan, Richard Grogan, Richard Hammond, Eamon Harrington, Bill Holohan, Siún Hurley, Aine Hynes, Paul Keane, Liam A Kennedy, Morette Kinsella, Gary Lee, Rosemarie Loftus, Barry MacCarthy, Flor McCarthy, Sonia McEntee, James A Murphy, Michelle Ní Longáin, Daniel O’Connor, Valerie Peart, Carol Plunkett, Imelda Reynolds, Brendan J Twomey and Keith Walsh
Patrick Dorgan, Stuart Gilhooly, Kevin O’Higgins, Michael Quinlan
Martin Crotty (Leinster), Shane McCarthy (Munster), Garry Clarke (Ulster), and David Higgins (Connaught)
DUBLIN SOLICITORS' BAR ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVES:
Greg Ryan, Diego Gallagher, Susan Martin
SOUTHERN LAW ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVES:
Robert Baker, Joan Byrne, Sean Durcan, Veronica Neville, Julie Rea
LAW SOCIETY OF NORTHERN IRELAND REPRESENTATIVES:
Eileen Ewing, John Guerin, Brigid Napier, Suzanne Rice, Rowan White
Reports from the Society's Departments of Policy and Public Affairs, Representation and Member Services, Education, Regulation, Finance and Administration and Human Resources.
volunteer solicitors contribute to the work of the Society’s 34 committees, working groups, and task forces
The Policy and Public Affairs Department engages with elected representatives and other decision-makers on an ongoing basis in order to advance the Law Society’s policy and law reform agenda.
The generosity of the 396 volunteer solicitors who contribute to the work of the Society’s 34 committees, working groups, and task forces enables the Society to provide expertly informed observations and suggestions to Government on relevant issues.
During the year, the department coordinated the provision of detailed submissions across a range of areas, including Brexit, online harassment and harmful communications, prohibition on the incitement to hatred, copyright in the Digital Single Market, and screening of foreign direct investments.
Representatives of the Society appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality on a number of occasions to raise issues of concern around victims of crime, access to justice, and the urgent requirement for a comprehensive system of legal aid within the State.
In June 2020, the department produced a synopsis of the new Programme for Government, highlighting various areas of legal and social reform sought by the Society. Together with the department’s regular Policy and Law Reform Newsletters, this was circulated to elected representatives and other senior decision makers.
The department submitted 42 lobbying returns to the publicly accessible register for the relevant lobbying period, which represented the Society’s largest quarterly return since the establishment of the register in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 led to a corresponding increase in reportable lobbying activity, as the Society engaged in often-daily contact with designated public officials in order to represent the interests of its members during a time of unprecedented challenge and disruption for the profession. The department also played a vital role in the daily monitoring of materials stemming from Government and other State agencies, so that members could be informed of all up-to-date advice and information.
The leadership of the Irish delegation to the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) passed to the Law Society in January 2020. The Policy and Public Affairs Department has been engaged in supporting the delegation’s work in ensuring that the interests of Irish lawyers are represented efficiently at a European level. Issues of note addressed by the CCBE during the year included democracy and the rule of law; the impact of AML and taxation legislation on legal professional privilege; artificial intelligence and data protection; the impact of COVID-19 on justice; and the systemic risk to the rule of law during a pandemic.
The department plays a vital role in the development of anti money-laundering (AML) policy and guidance. Dedicated AML COVID-19 guidance was issued in March 2020 and had been downloaded by 330 firms by the end of June. Throughout the pandemic crisis, email and telephone support continued to be provided to solicitors navigating complex AML duties. The Society’s Online Solicitor AML Training Programme was developed by the department, and the first training hour (released in December 2019) was taken-up by over 1,700 solicitors in the six months to the end of June 2020.
In April 2020, the department launched an up-to-date, fully digital, eCompendium to the Solicitors Acts, containing all of the primary legislation regulating solicitors, including the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. To assist solicitors in using the 2020 eCompendium, the department also developed self-help supports, including a ‘how-to-use’ video and a ‘quick-reference guide’, all accessible by visiting www.lawsociety.ie/ecompendium.
unique visitors to Gazette.ie - an increase of 27%
This has been a year like no other. Our members have faced unprecedented challenges through the coronavirus crisis. Our department has worked hard to do all we can by providing practical support, guidance, and assistance to help steer the profession through the crisis.
Soon after it began, we established two new supports – the Crisis Business Support and the Crisis Career Support services. Nearly 400 members called these helplines to seek assistance with accessing State support and to seek business and career advice. In addition, hundreds of solicitors attended our online Wednesday Practice Support Information Sessions, which provided information on how to access State and Law Society supports.
The Professional Wellbeing Project has played a key role in supporting the mental health of our members. First, we accelerated the launch of our new service, LegalMind, just two weeks into lockdown. This independent, confidential, mental-health service is available 24 hours a day for members and their dependents seeking emotional and psychological help.
Further, the Professional Wellbeing Hub (a one-stop-shop for resources on wellbeing, mental health, and positive workplace practices) was launched; a reduced-rate Employee Assistance Programme was negotiated for members; resilience and wellbeing CPD initiatives took place online and in person; and emotional and psychological-health information and tools were provided regularly to members via the Gazette, eZines, videos and the Professional Wellbeing Hub.
The first stage of the Small Practice Business Support Project was completed this year. Practical tools, including the Growth Strategy Workbook, Marketing Workbook and other business guidance, were made available on the Business Hub and through Business Bulletins. The project continues with a new action plan, and includes elements for larger firms, in-house solicitors, and those requiring career help in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
This year, we continued to proactively promote and defend the solicitors’ profession in the media. Stories included COVID-19 updates and guidance relating to family law, wills and probate, and supporting practices; LegalMind and wellbeing in the profession; PPC Hybrid and bringing legal education online; the ‘Courting Disaster’ campaign and call for investments in the family courts; English and Welsh solicitors joining the Irish Roll in preparation for Brexit; and highlighting the profession’s priorities, such as insurance and hate crime, in the Programme for Government.
The direction of our radio, print and online advertising campaign has been affected by the crisis. It was clear through lockdown that certain members of the public were unaware that their solicitors’ offices were continuing to provide essential services. We shifted our messaging to make it clear that solicitors were open and ready to help. The online campaign had a particularly large impact, with over three million impressions and almost 400,000 video views.
It is a point of pride that the Gazette magazine continued to be published on schedule, despite the challenges of lockdown and the very sad news that our decades-long printer went into liquidation in March. It also introduced 100% compostable bio-wraps and carbon-balanced paper in 2020. Gazette.ie has continued to grow and welcomed 452,655 unique visitors in the year under review – an increase of 27% compared with the previous 12 months.
The library, too, continued to operate throughout the crisis. A remote digital service was established to give access to document delivery, online resources and research assistance. The library physically reopened in June and the book-lending service resumed. The vast majority of library charges were abolished or significantly reduced to assist members. It also launched a new mobile app and produced a booklet (Celebrating a Century of Equal Opportunities Legislation) documenting the first 100 women solicitors in the profession.
Online communications have been key to our crisis response. The frequency of our digital communications increased, and we expanded access to non-member solicitors and trainees. In all, 47 President’s Bulletins were sent during the period. Further, for the year ending 30 June, lawsociety.ie received 6.1 million unique page views (+6.7%) by over 975,000 visitors (+26%).
During lockdown (March to end July), the library:
The top five countries reading Gazette.ie are:
There were 2,548 social media posts on Law Society channels, with 4.38 million impressions and 317,551 engagements in the year under review.
solicitors attending free online CPD courses by the Society’s professional training section
The year 2019/20 has seen more changes in solicitor education than in any other year. Some of this was planned, but much was a response to the challenge of the global pandemic. Staff threw themselves into a reinvention of professional legal education at all levels: from an online summer school for secondary school students, to the Professional Practice Courses, to CPD and diplomas for solicitors. The ongoing emergency affected all of the functions of the Education Department and our staff responded magnificently.
The first half of the year saw progress on the implementation of the Peart Report recommendations. The PPC Hybrid started in December 2019, combining distance learning with monthly on-site weekend sessions and two immersive week-long sessions in the Education Centre. As expected, the 48 trainees who are completing the course are generally older than other trainees, and many are training outside Dublin. The course also attracted many more in-house trainees. It has been a very positive experience, and learning how to engage with remote learners proved very useful in light of how the year unfolded. New regulations to give effect to further changes were also introduced.
In all, 453 trainees completed the PPC1 in March and, just as the lockdown started, PPC2 was due to commence for 448 students. Over the course of three weeks, it was redesigned as an online offering. Over 400 staff and teaching solicitors were trained in the use of programmes such as Zoom and Panopto in less than 22 days. There was a huge workload involved, but the course was delivered successfully. Student participation was higher than on a normal course, and a range of additional programmes and learning resources were offered to students.
A similar campaign is now underway with the 418 attendees on the PPC1, which is being offered on a blended basis. While most of the course is taking place online, students can come on-site in smaller numbers, in socially distanced formats, for skills and other subjects that do not lend themselves easily to online instruction.
In recognition of the difficult times being faced by the profession, a range of free CPD courses were provided. A total of 3,800 solicitors signed up for the Certificate in Technology Law and the Introduction to Arts and the Law courses. More than 6,000 solicitors are continuing to attend the free online CPD courses being offered by the professional training section, which focus on the challenges facing the profession at this time.
Our examination section was also kept very busy. The restrictions were introduced in the middle of the Final Examination – First Part, and resulted in two subject papers having to be rescheduled for August. However, shortly before these two papers were due to be sat, further restrictions were introduced in Kildare, Laois and Offaly, and a further online examination was put in place for these students. The exams team responded to the rolling and ongoing series of logistical challenges with good grace and organisational aplomb.
2019 was a record year for admissions to the Roll of Solicitors – the total of 2,381 admissions exceeded the 2,000 milestone in a single year for the first time ever. This was primarily due to admissions from our nearest neighbours. In all, 731 solicitors from England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, were admitted.
However, like everything else, admissions were affected by current circumstances and, as of 1 September 2020, a total of 373 new solicitors have been admitted. Of these, 213 are transferees from the UK jurisdictions. We anticipate that this number will increase as the Brexit deadline draws closer but, for the first time since 2016, admissions will fall well below 1,000.
Excellent work was done this year in promoting the solicitors’ profession to those potentially interested in joining it. The undoubted highlight was an online legal summer school for senior-cycle school students, which focused on law in a very practical way. This course was completed by over 1,500 students from all over Ireland.
I wish to thank all of our Law School staff, who have demonstrated an ability to respond to significant and continuing change, and who have worked so hard to support students and each other. I’m proud to work alongside such a dedicated, diligent and determined team.
orders by the High Court to hand over client files to the Law Society
It has been a case of regulation as usual, but under unusual circumstances. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created new and unexpected challenges for all, the Society’s regulatory functions have remained operational on a continuous basis.
The Society is addressing challenges presented by Brexit and maintains working relationships with UK law societies to navigate uncharted territory. The Regulation Department led the preparation of a memorandum of understanding with the Law Society of Northern Ireland. We continue to receive applications for enrolment from England and Wales, albeit at a slower pace than in previous years. Nonetheless, the number of solicitors from there applying for practising certificates with a view to providing legal services in Ireland this year is low.
The Society continues to engage with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority since the commencement of core elements of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 in October 2019. The authority now receives any complaints made against legal practitioners, with the Society winding down its complaints functions. The authority began accepting applications from solicitors’ firms for authorisation as limited liability partnerships in November 2019. By summer 2020, more than a quarter of solicitors’ partnerships had applied to operate as LLPs. The Regulation Department played a significant role in preparation of the Society’s submissions to the authority in relation to advertising legal services and the unification of the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions.
In all, 10,960 practising certificates were issued to solicitors in the jurisdiction from July 2019 to June 2020 – 51% of practising certificate holders are female and 49% are male. From July 2019 to June 2020, 142 new solicitors’ firms opened and 88 closed. During that period, three solicitors were struck off the Roll of Solicitors and four solicitors were suspended.
The department continues to progress the System 360 project to achieve a more user-friendly electronic environment for members. Members can access ‘My Dashboard’ on the Society’s website, which includes profile, practising certificate and membership online renewal and applications status. The online practising certificate application form was improved, and queries were streamlined with a new online queries system.
Enhancements to the professional indemnity insurance guidelines, the common proposal form and the online renewal notification system for brokers continue. Extensive PII information can be found on the Society’s website at www.lawsociety.ie/PII.
We have engaged in extensive work in connection with antimoney-laundering, cybersecurity and advertising regulations, which is covered in the Regulation of Practice Committee report. Of particular note is our work on the drafting of the Solicitors (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Regulations 2020, updating regulations for recent underlying primary legislation changes and due to commence on 1 November 2020.
During the year, a long-serving investigating accountant retired. Due to the pandemic, the vacancy has not yet been filled.
The Practice Closures Section continues to deal with distressed firm closures. During the past year, the High Court granted five orders to hand over client files to the Society. We liaise with clients, their solicitors and third parties to protect the interests of clients in challenging circumstances.
From July 2019 to June 2020, the Society received 14 queries from the Ombudsman relating to complaints not upheld and refusal of grants from the compensation fund. The Society assists the Ombudsman by furnishing copy files and explaining our procedures.
to 82 firms
The Finance and Administration Department provides a range of internal services and supports to the Law Society’s core functional areas of representation, education and regulation, which, in turn, provide services and support to members, students and the public.
Financial management is one of the key roles of the department. In its simplest form, this means taking in money and spending it (and squirreling some away for the rainy day), but this must be done in the context of prudent financial management through ensuring value for all money spent, and having appropriate financial processes and controls to protect the Society’s financial and physical assets. This is achieved through a detailed budgeting process, close monitoring of finances throughout the year, and long-term financial planning through a five-year planning process. Financial controls are assured through an internal-audit process, which commenced operations in 2019.
The finance function is responsible for the oversight of the ongoing financial elements of the run-down of the SMDF, which looks like it might do somewhat better than planned and yield some return in 2021. Minimising the cost of the LSRA to practitioners is also a challenge managed by the finance function – so far, this has not resulted in an increase in the practising certificate fee. It is also responsible for the Society’s general and pension scheme investments, which saw a bumper return in 2019, followed by the roller-coaster that is 2020!
The advent of COVID-19 has brought major financial challenges, not only on the investment side, but also in relation to our commercial activities. All operational spending, as well as capital expenditure, has been significantly reduced in order to preserve the Society’s finances. Unfortunately, this resulted in almost 30 staff members being put on lay-off or short time.
The department, through the information technology (IT) section, spearheaded the remote working of 200 staff members in a very short time at the end of March, and in keeping them supported in subsequent months. The facilities section played a key role in the ‘Return to Office’ plan, ensuring that we had appropriate protocols and control measures in place to facilitate a return.
The facilities function, which is responsible for maintaining and protecting the historic building of Blackhall Place and the operation of the overall site, continued its work in implementing a conservation plan developed in 2014. A number of major building projects were finished in the last 12 months or are ongoing, including essential works driven by fire, health-and-safety, and disability-access needs, as well as the maintenance of the fabric of Blackhall Place to ensure that the buildings can operate effectively for modern use. Current projects include general fire-precaution upgrades, rewiring of the historic building, replacement of boilers, acoustics work in the Presidents’ Hall, and continued upgrading of public areas within the site. The purchase of a building adjacent to Blackhall Place will significantly add to the Society’s facilities and alleviate space pressures in relation to member services, students and staff.
The facilities section also oversees the bar, catering and B&B facilities through the Law Club of Ireland. Over 1,800 bed nights were provided in the B&B facility. The Four Courts’ consultation rooms had over 12,000 lettings. Unfortunately, all of these services are currently feeling the brunt of COVID-19.
The IT section’s main focus continues to be the implementation of ‘System 360’, which is a very significant investment in a member-management system approved by AGM in 2015 and 2019, with a budget of €4.2m. We are now in phase 2 (education) of the project, with phase 1 (which covers primarily regulation and practising certificates) having bedded in very successfully. This Society-wide project will ensure that our IT systems adequately support our various roles into the future, will integrate membership and education systems, and will include a member-friendly interface to ensure efficient online interaction between members and the Society. Over 65% of practising certificate (PC) holders renewed their certificates online for 2020 using the new system. The protection of our information assets is a priority, and cybersecurity continued to exercise the minds and resources of the IT section throughout the period. At the heart of the Society’s cyber-strategy is an ongoing external review of the robustness of our IT security and an education/awareness programme for all staff.
The risk and privacy functions continue to keep a close oversight of their areas, ensuring that we have robust risk-management strategies and procedures in place, and that privacy and data protection are embedded in the organisation’s culture. Work on a feasibility study and options on the Benburb Street site have been put on hold until the impact of COVID-19 on the Society’s and the profession’s finances becomes clearer.
The department also manages two important member schemes: the Finance Scheme for tax, pensions, PII and PC fees, which provided loans of over €2.58m to 82 firms for 2019/20; and the Group Life Assurance Scheme, which provided a benefit of €47,500 to the families of a number of solicitors over the past year.
Unfortunately, the normal corporate social responsibility activity for which the department is responsible, including the Society’s involvement in the Calcutta Run and the opening of Blackhall Place to the public on Heritage Week, Culture Night, Open House and for the Smithfield/Stoneybatter Festival, have all been curtailed for 2020. Beidh lá eile againn!
They say that a person’s true nature is only seen in adversity – I am happy to say that every woman and man rose to the challenges and flexibility demanded by the COVID-19 crisis in working to ensure that the department lived up to the mantra of ‘business as usual, delivered differently’.
absence rate for Law Society staff compared with 2.68% national average
The HR Department plays a pivotal role in providing a positive, fair and open working environment, underpinned by the right structures and skills for our colleagues on the Society’s staff, so they can make a difference to the interests of our members, students and the wider public.
Our colleagues contribute enormously to a range of activities that support or deliver the Society’s core functions of representation, education and regulation. We have progressed in the last year in line with our strategic aspirations – and this is down to the talents and loyalty of our people. For this reason, we invest in them to allow them to both succeed in their own careers, and to contribute invaluably to the solicitors’ profession and the public we serve.
To maintain our service, our department works collectively with others to develop, motivate and retain our people. Our metrics score well in a national context: in December 2019, our absence rate was 1.88%, compared with a 2.68% national average, and our voluntary turnover was 8.5%, compared with a 14% national average. Of those who left, 43% went to pursue a new challenge, while 88% of people questioned said they would recommend the Law Society as a place to work.
In the year under review, we continued to invest in learning and development, focusing on six key areas: executive coaching and leadership skills, management development, professional development, compliance and technology, future core capabilities, and mental health and wellbeing.
In March 2020, we accelerated our plans to develop our e-learning offering to colleagues, in partnership with the Education Department, which has proven to be a critical support to those working and managing teams remotely.
Feedback is an important part of understanding our colleagues. In 2019, a total of 21 staff participated in focus groups, and 175 staff completed a comprehensive staff survey, which represented 75% of our workforce. Of the population sample, 71% were female and 29% were male. The age breakdown was:
Meaningful work, positive peer relationships, and a trusting environment were factors with which people were most satisfied. Aspects relating to mental health and wellbeing recorded lower results.
In October 2019, in response to the findings, a collaborative, inter-departmental wellbeing programme (‘Vitality’) was launched. Updates on the Vitality Programme are shared through quarterly staff gatherings, a central intranet hub, and weekly bulletins to promote engagement in activities.
Mental health has been a core theme and, between November and January, 54 colleagues undertook mental-health awareness training and 15 colleagues were trained as ‘mental-health first responders’. In addition, we launched our employee assistance programme (‘It’s Good to Talk’) through Laya Healthcare.
We recognise the importance of providing an inclusive workplace for colleagues to feel safe and supported at work, no matter what their individual characteristics. The Law Society’s GEDI Charter commits us to taking the necessary steps to promote gender equality, diversity and inclusion in our workplace.
In 2019, we implemented a new HR system to securely automate, digitise and unify our data on a centralised platform. October 2020 sees the launch of the next phase of implementation – a self-service feature that has been designed to provide an enhanced employee experience.
Since March 2020, the department has played a key role in the Society’s rapid response to the COVID-19 crisis. We have learned that cultivating awareness, resilience and adaptability will continue to be important during recovery, and that changes to the future of work will accelerate, particularly through the increased use of technology.
As we shape our future collectively, we will adopt what we have learned so we can emerge stronger than before.
The Law Society’s committees are appointed by the Council. Their term of office runs from the November Council meeting each year until the November Council meeting the following year. The incoming president selects the chair and members of each committee and places their names before the Council for approval. The Council regulations divide the committees into two categories: ‘standing committees’ and ‘non-standing committees’. In addition, various subcommittees, task forces, and working groups are established to deal with different legislative and operational matters, as they arise.
The Solicitors Acts state that the Council exercises the statutory functions of the Society, which are set out in the acts. The Council may delegate the exercise of any of its functions to a committee established for that purpose. This allows the Council to appoint standing committees that exercise statutory functions on its behalf.
The Council appoints non-standing committees where it believes that these can better assist the Society in carrying out its work. These committees do not perform statutory functions.
Up to 7 October 2019, the Complaints and Client Relations Committee (CCRC) considered complaints about the adequacy of professional service, the level of fees, and the professional conduct of solicitors.
On 7 October 2019, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority took over responsibility for the consideration and adjudication of complaints. From that date onwards, any new complaint made to the Society was directed to the authority. The Society continues to deal with any complaints made to it prior to 7 October 2019, and will continue to do so until all outstanding complaints are concluded.
Regulatory committees continued to meet during the COVID-19 lockdown by holding virtual meetings. The CCRC dealt with 114 new matters during the year, and met 19 times – six of those were virtual meetings. Our thanks are due to the Society’s hardworking IT department for making the transition to virtual meetings as seamless as possible.
The committee and the Society’s executive team have found the transition to such meetings beneficial, enabling more frequent, shorter meetings without the need for travel and attendant time out of the office. Complainants and respondents have participated willingly in virtual meetings and have benefited from matters being dealt with more swiftly and productively. The format has been an unexpected success and is a valuable addition to the committee’s resources, improving how it carries out its function.
From November onwards, the CCRC will sit in two divisions, down from three, to reflect the reduction in the number of outstanding complaints. Staff in the complaints section have been transferred or redeployed.
The committee will continue its annual review of applications for practising certificates from solicitors who are the subject of multiple complaints. It can direct the registrar to refuse to issue a certificate or issue a certificate with conditions, having regard to the number and nature of complaints made against a solicitor in the preceding two practice years.
The investigation of complaints remains subject to review by the Independent Adjudicator of the Law Society and by the Office of the Ombudsman.
My thanks to my two vice-chairs and to the members of the committee, together with the staff of the complaints section, for their support and commitment during what has turned out to be an exceptionally challenging year.
The Coordination Committee operates as a link between the Society’s committees and the Council, with an oversight role for projects undertaken by each of the Society’s committees and task forces. In this capacity, it reviews the benefit of committee projects in terms of resources and timelines, and allocates finances within an overall budget determined by the Finance Committee. It considers requests to pursue specific proposals or seek expert advices during the course of the year, and ensures that the direction and priority of projects are appropriate to the Society’s overall objectives.
At the commencement of each Council year, the Coordination Committee meets with the chairs of the Society’s standing committees and task forces to consider ongoing issues and to plan for the year ahead. During April and May 2020, two additional virtual meetings of the Coordination Committee were held with those chairs to consider the myriad issues arising for the Society and the profession following the nationwide lockdown arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At those meetings, the committee approved a number of special initiatives, including the Crisis Career Support and Crisis Small Business Support Services, the Society’s response in terms of mental-health initiatives and an acceleration of the LegalMind service, the provision of free online CPD and further diploma and certificate proposals made by the Education Department, a number of financial waiver and staff cost-cutting proposals across the Society (subject to Finance Committee approval), and a raft of lobbying initiatives and representations to Government departments and State agencies.
A further function of the committee is the consideration of matters falling outside the remit of any of the other committees. During the past year, it addressed a number of such issues, including:
The committee continued its work to improve access, drive innovation, and streamline solicitor education.
The Solicitors Acts 1954-2011 (Apprenticeship and Education) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 came into operation on 1 January and provide for:
Other significant achievements include the PPC Hybrid, which started in January 2020 with 46 trainees in attendance; the introduction of a grant scheme to encourage practices in rural areas to hire trainee solicitors; and the launch of an outreach strategic plan to encourage entrants to the profession, improve communication with stakeholders, and bring greater visibility to the work done by the Law School.
As well as these, the Law School’s success in dealing with the COVID-19 health crisis ensured that no trainee or solicitor was disadvantaged or delayed in completing their course and receiving their qualification or CPD hours.
In these uncertain times, both socially and economically, it is reassuring to know the Society’s finances performed well in 2019. This gives us leverage to absorb income losses that are materialising in 2020 as a result of the public-health emergency and that may well persist into 2021. The 2019 surplus will also enable the Finance Committee to continue its objective of minimising the cost of the practising certificate, particularly at a time where it would be very valuable to practitioners.
The PC fee for 2019 was increased by €100, which was very modest in the context of an increase of €50 for the SBA and the imposition, for the first time, of an LSRA levy. The situation was helped by the reduction and ending of the SMDF levy. In order to lessen the impact of the LSRA levy, the registration fee and Compensation Fund elements of the practising certificate were reduced, resulting in a modest operating surplus of 4% being budgeted. However, a number of tailwinds helped us perform significantly better than this, including a record number of practising certificates and admissions, very significant investment gains, an asset revaluation, and the LSRA levy being much less than anticipated, as the roll-out of their operations was much slower than expected.
The after-tax surplus (excluding investment gains) from general operations was €1.2m (2018: - €449k). This equates to 6% of operational income after tax. This was better than budget by €768k.
When the exceptional performance of our investments in 2019 is factored in, the before-tax general activity surplus totalled €2.4m and was better than budget by €1.8m. Education activities made a surplus of €18k against a budgeted surplus of €59k. Reserve funds, which include amounts allocated to the Capital Expenditure, Litigation, Capital Reserve and LSRA Levy Funds (after provision of €1.4m for the LSRA levy for 2019), increased by €3.5m (2018: €48k). Almost €2m of this increase arose from overprovision for the LSRA levy and will be used to reduce the cost of that levy in future years.
In the audited financial statements, there are a number of revaluations and exceptional items that must be included, albeit that they are outside normal operations. The primary adjustments were an additional €2.6m on a revaluation of the Benburb Street site, and the inclusion of a €391k income raised through the practising certificate fee to fund the remaining deferred cost of the sale of the SMDF – 2019 was the last year of the SMDF levy.
Also, in accordance with the accounting standard FRS102, the financial performance of the staff pension scheme must also be shown in both the income statement and the balance sheet. This has introduced significant variances in the accounts over the last five years since the application of the standard. Over that period, adjustments in the pension liability have ranged from a positive €2.5m adjustment to a negative €4.8m adjustment. In 2019, the adjustment was a deficit of €1.8m. These adjustments are primarily driven by the bond rate used in the calculation of the scheme liabilities. The Finance Committee is not concerned about such variances, as the variables that have an impact on these valuations are different to those used in our actuarial valuations. Measured through actuarial valuations conducted by Mercer, our pension scheme is in good health. It is unfortunate that the accounting standard creates artificial surpluses and deficits. Overall, these adjustments and the allocations to the funds result in showing the Law Society, which had an after-tax operational surplus of €2.4m, as having an overall accounting surplus of €7.1m.
Unfortunately, the accounts are made even more complex by the incorporation of the operational surpluses for the Law Society in ‘Group’ accounts, which include all of the Law Society’s subsidiaries. Overall, the Law Society’s Group made a surplus of €7.2m (2018: €9.96m) after tax and exceptional items. The Group accounts give a full picture of the financial performance and financial position of all the Law Society operations, but they can distort the view of the performance of the different elements of our operation, given that inter-entity trading must be eliminated. The ‘overall results’ table shows the management accounts results, which are the actual operating outcomes of the various elements of the Law Society’s operations.
‘Other expenditure’ noted in the accounts are the costs associated with our subsidiaries, which were €815k (2017: €542k).
Total income for the year, excluding investment gains, was €32.2m, €5m or 19% ahead of 2018. On the general activities side, the income was €21.2m (2018: €16.4m). Practising certificate, membership, and admission fees were €19.8m (2018: €15.2m), with most of the increase being attributable to the advent of the LSRA Levy Fund contribution. Despite a reduced registration fee, a greater-than-expected increase in the number of practising certificates (mainly from the UK), increased allocations to the funds, as well as increased admissions fees, all contributed to the income increase.
Education income (at €10.9m) increased by 3% from €10.6m, and income from other sources, such as advertising, publications and the Four Courts (at €1.5m) was 13% ahead of 2018. In 2019, there were 11,879 (2018: 10,863) practising certificate holders, which was an increase of 1,016 (9%) on 2018. There was an unanticipated significant increase in Brexit practising certificate holders, from 248 to 859. The additional practising certificates accounted for €480k of the income increase. Membership numbers, at 12,906 (2018: 11,941), increased by 965. Membership numbers include 157 solicitors who avail of free membership on the basis of being over 50 years admitted or being unemployed. There was a record 2,387 admissions to the Roll during the year (2018: 1,231), of which 1,836 were ‘Brexit’ admissions. Practising certificate fee income totalling €1.6m (2018: €0.45m) was allocated to the Capital Expenditure, Litigation and Capital Reserve Funds. Income to the LSRA Levy Fund was €3.3m, in anticipation of an LSRA levy of that amount. However, this only materialised as a levy of €1.4m, leaving a net increase in the LSRA Levy Fund of €1.9m.
Education activities income was €10.9m (2018: €10.6m). While income levels increased for all Law School operations, the bulk of the increase came from increased revenue from our diplomas and professional training (LSPT) areas. Professional practice courses, exams, etc, accounted for €7.2m, and LSPT seminars, diploma courses and grants accounted for €3.7m. There were 455 PPC1 students in September 2019 (2018: 448), and 46 students enrolled for the new Hybrid PPC, which commenced in late 2019. FE-1 sittings, at 2,496 (2018: 2,376), while growing slightly, are still very far off their high of 3,328 in 2007. Diploma course income (at €2.2m) was slightly behind 2018 income of €2.5m. LSPT, with its Skillnet and Finuas programmes, had overall income, including grants, of €1.5m (2018: €1.1m).
Overall expenditure was €28.1m, which was an increase of 2.3% or €636k on 2018. On the general activities side, an increase of €609k (3.8%) was mainly accounted for by an increase of €200k in regulation costs, and by an increase of €166k in representation expenditure. Education activities’ operational charges increased by €405k (3.8%), in line with increased activity and student numbers.
‘Other expenditure’, noted in the accounts, are the costs associated with our subsidiaries and were €437k (2018: €815k). The reduction was mainly due to the reversal of a charge in 2018 of €260k for the Vacant Site Levy, which was successfully appealed in 2019.
The position shown by our balance sheet is significantly distorted by the FRS102 accounting standard requirements. This required three significant adjustments. The first is a positive one and increased the valuation of the Benburb Street site from €17.75m to €20.35m. The second is the inclusion of €391k income to the SMDF Levy Fund, bringing it to a total of €1.9m, slightly ahead of the remaining €1.8m deferred payment for the sale of the SMDF. The estimated overall cost to members of the SMDF financial support is €13.5m, compared with an original approval of €16m. The third adjustment is the increase in the deficit on the staff pension scheme (closed to new entrants since 2009) from €5.5m to €7.3m. This deficit arises from the value of the liabilities based on FRS102 assumptions. Our actuaries have determined, based on their actuarial model, that the current contribution rate will eliminate any real deficit over the long term.
As a consequence of these three adjustments, our net asset position now stands at €47.8m (2018: €40.5m). Of our reserves, €38.4m are accounted for by fixed assets (2018: €33.6m).
The reserves also include two contingency funds, Capital Expenditure at €1.8m and Litigation at €1.4m. Both funds are designed to meet costs in these areas as they arise. The Capital Reserve Fund amount of €665k is to meet future development costs. Additionally, there is a balance of €2.2m in the LSRA Levy Fund, being the balance of funds raised over the last two years and the provision of €1.4m for the 2019 levy.
The group structure includes a number of subsidiary entities that are effectively run on a break-even basis. The Law Club of Ireland operates the commercial elements of the Blackhall Place premises and, after subsidies and net of management fees of €25k, made an operational surplus of €54k (2018: surplus €58k). Benburb Street Property Company Limited, which owns and manages the Benburb Street site, made an operational surplus of €33k (2018: loss €345k) before allowing for the revaluation of the site.
Despite all the turmoil of this year, practising certificate numbers are very much in line with expectations and will be in line with 2019. This is despite an anticipated fall-off in Brexit PCs, which was not as severe as expected, with the numbers reducing from 859 to 586. However, the fall-off is expected to continue into 2021. The Brexit admissions returned to a trickle in 2020, at 151. PPC student intake in September was significantly affected by the public health emergency and stands at 418, compared with 448 in 2019.
In April, when the impact of the public-health emergency was becoming obvious, the Finance Committee implemented an immediate cost-reduction programme, which included, unfortunately, 30 staff being put on lay-off or part-time, the freezing of most capital expenditure projects, and significant reductions in operational projects. A salary freeze and recruitment freeze were also implemented.
Although we managed to maintain the PC fee for 2020 at the same level as 2019, this was done on the basis of budgeting for no surplus. Given the significant loss of income due to COVID-19 in both investments and commercial activities, the outcome for 2020 is likely to be a loss of €1m.
As we face into 2021, there is some light on the horizon, and the committee is working very hard to effect a reduction in the PC fee while, at the same time, ensuring prudent management of the Society’s finances over the short to medium term. Given that we have 12,000 solicitors, even a small reduction in the PC fee has a very significant impact on the Society’s finances.
It is fortunate that the Society, like the rest of the economy, had begun in the last number of years to rebuild its reserves, which were seriously damaged during the 2008-2013 recession. This will help us weather this storm.
The Finance Committee continues to work to ensure that costs are controlled tightly and, where possible, reserves will be used to reduce the PC fee for 2021, and maybe beyond. However, the committee is also conscious that it has an obligation to prudently manage the Society’s finances for the long term, and not just the short term, to ensure that the Society is sufficiently resourced to service its members in an efficient manner into the future, and that the Society remains an effective and efficient professional body with its regulatory, educational and representative roles.
Full audited financial statements of the Society for 2019 are included in this report.
The committee fulfils the Society’s obligations with regard to mandatory statutory reporting requirements relating to the offences of money-laundering, terrorist financing and relevant offences.
The committee membership expanded this year and, with regard to our objective to align with corporate governance best practice, an additional lay member was appointed. In accordance with a direction by the Council of the Law Society to regulatory committees generally, codified rules of procedure were adopted and approved.
The Society is required to report any suspicions that money laundering or an offence of financing terrorism has been committed by a practising solicitor (or any other person, who the Society, in the course of monitoring solicitors, suspects has been engaged in such activities) to the relevant authorities – An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners. These suspicious transaction reports are made pursuant to the provisions of section 63 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Acts 2010-2018.
During the past year, the committee directed that six such reports be made.
Pursuant to the provisions of section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011, the Society is also required to report to An Garda Síochána, as soon as practicable, information in its possession that it knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing the commission of a relevant offence or securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of a person for a relevant offence.
Relevant offences are listed in schedule 1 of the act and include fraud-related offences.
During the past year, the committee directed that ten such reports be made.
I would like to thank my fellow committee members for their contributions at meetings during the year. I would also like to thank committee secretary Tina Beattie and her colleagues in the Regulation Department for their assistance.
The function of the Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) Committee is to deal with all matters pertaining to the regulation of solicitors’ PII, including monitoring of the implementation of the PII regulations and associated documentation, maintenance of a stable PII market, provision of guidance to the profession, and attending to PII queries arising. The committee reviews drafts, and publishes updated PII regulations and associated documentation on an annual basis.
The committee maintains a regular dialogue with insurers participating in the Irish market for solicitors’ PII. The committee monitors the management and running of the Special Purpose Fund (the Assigned Risks Pool and the Run-off Fund) through the Special Purpose Fund Management Committee, which comprises representatives of the PII committee, the Special Purpose Fund manager, and the two participating insurers with the highest market share by premium.
The committee provides information and documentation to the public and the profession through the PII webpage at www.lawsociety.ie/PII, which contains current and historic information and documentation on PII matters, including news items, regulations, minimum terms and conditions, common proposal form, participating insurers’ agreements, Special Purpose Fund documentation, lists of insurers and brokers, and guidance notes. Information on current insurance details of firms continues to be available through the Society’s online firm insurance-details search facility. The committee has published guidance notes on the common proposal form, PII renewal, the administration of Elite, the liquidation of CBL, and risk management. The committee also published its rules of procedure.
The PII market remains stable, as evidenced by the fact that only two firms have availed of the Assigned Risks Pool as the insurer of last resort for the 2019/20 indemnity period. The number of closed firms entering the Run-off Fund in the 2019/20 indemnity has stayed low, at 34 firms.
While much of the work of the committee relates to ongoing maintenance of the PII system, the committee has been particularly focused this year on improving the PII regulations by way of completion of an extensive ‘gap analysis’ of PII regulations to identify any gaps or issues, and to future-proof the regulations with regards to matters such as Brexit and new legal structures. I would like to thank the committee members and committee secretary for their hard work, assistance, and valuable input.
The Regulation of Practice Committee administers the Law Society Compensation Fund, which is maintained in order to compensate clients for losses due to dishonesty by solicitors or their employees. The committee also polices the profession’s compliance with regulations regarding accounts, anti-money laundering, advertising, and regulatory requirements under the Solicitors Acts 1954-2015 not assigned to other regulatory committees.
The income and expenditure account of the compensation fund reflects a surplus (representing an excess of income over expenditure after taxation) of €950,115 for the year ended 31 December 2019, as compared with a surplus of €830,936 for the year ended 31 December 2018. The increase of €119,179 in the surplus for 2019 as compared with 2018 is attributable to a decrease in 2019 of €23,502 in income, an increase of €2,944,710 in expenditure as compared with 2018, an increased adjustment of €3,206,584 in the fair-value movements arising on revaluation of investments, together with an increase in taxation amounting to €119,193.
The decrease of €23,502 in income in 2019 is attributed mainly to a decrease of €646,922 in recoveries from defaulting solicitors, offset by an increase of €407,118 in income and return on investments, together with an increase of contributions receivable of €265,909.
The increase of €2,944,710 in expenditure as between the two years is attributable to an increase in the provision for claims of €2,607,518.
The net assets of the fund as at 31 December 2019 stood at €23,296,339, as compared with €22,346,224 at 31 December 2018. The increase of €950,115 in the net asset position of the fund as between the two years’ end is reflected in a decrease of €500,130 in revenue reserves, together with an increase of €1,450,245 in the revaluation reserve on the fund’s investments.
In the six months ended 30 June 2020, 54 claims were received. Excluding invalid claims refused, these claims amounted to €1,464,151. Payments were made in the sum of €547,729 in respect of claims, and claims amounting to €916,422 are still under consideration.
The net assets of the fund are valued at €23 million as at 30 June 2020. The annual contribution to the fund was €720 per solicitor for 2020. Insurance cover for €50 million in excess of €5 million is in place for the year ending 31 December 2020.
The committee met 46 times for 40 scheduled, four special, and two emergency meetings. For the purposes of these statistics, each meeting of a division of the committee is counted as a meeting. Due to the committee’s wide statutory remit, and to ensure the efficient conduct of committee business, the committee sits in general, claims, and advertising regulations divisions. The committee has subcommittees dealing with investments, audit, and review of accounts regulations.
Arising from these meetings, the committee decided to:
The team of investigating accountants conducted approximately 400 investigations throughout the year.
The work of the committee was not disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. All committee meetings went ahead as scheduled through a virtual meeting platform, which is expected to remain the preferred platform for the time being. The committee was determined that protections for client moneys remain in place. As on-site inspections could not proceed, the cooperation of solicitors was sought to carry out an off-site ‘desktop review’, by which required information was sent directly to the authorised person, generally in password-protected electronic format. The profession has been receptive to this approach, and reviews have taken place all over the country.
The dedicated cybersecurity webpage was updated, in particular with guidance on best practices during the pandemic. Research on new types of cyber attack is periodically undertaken, and a full programme of information continues through Gazette and eZine articles, talks to bar associations, and guidance to members in answer to enquiries.
In what can be expected to be a temporary reversal, compliance with anti-money-laundering legislation has declined, in the main attributable to additional requirements under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Act 2018. Firms that had not updated procedures were required to do so. The committee agreed to finance free online AML training for solicitors.
The investment subcommittee instituted an investment strategy review of compensation fund investments, which led to the transfer of funds from an active global equity fund to a passive equity index fund. The COVID crisis saw an initial drop of 20% in the value of the investments but, by June 2020, the fall was restricted to 4%.
The committee commissioned a review of the optimal asset value of the compensation fund, resulting in a revised targeted optimal value of €25 million.
An audit subcommittee was established to formalise oversight of the external and internal audit functions in relation to the compensation fund. The subcommittee met with the auditors to review the 2019 accounts, and received an internal audit report on the claims management system.
A practice note (July 2020 Gazette, p55) on moneys received from third parties clarified the use of client accounts for private equity and loan transactions.
The claims-harvesting website project reports that six websites were removed from the internet, and ten were brought into legal compliance. A county-by-county review of solicitor online advertising shows overwhelming compliance with the new Solicitors Advertising Regulations 2019. Practice notes were published on the prohibitions on paying for referrals from claims harvesting websites (February 2020 Gazette, p62) and on advertisements that encourage personal injury claims (February 2020 Gazette, p65).
Codified rules of procedure were commenced on 1 September 2020 for the purpose of aiding clarity and certainty for the benefit of the committee and those dealing with the committee – Solicitors Acts 1954-2015 (Regulation of Practice Committee) Regulations 2020 (SI 239/2020).
I would like to thank the committee vice-chairs, the lay members, all other committee members, the Registrar of Solicitors and Director of Regulation (as the committee secretary), and his team in Regulation for their highly valued participation in the work of the committee.
It is not possible to mention here all of the committee’s work during the year under review, but the following is an outline of some of the key elements. The committee made a number of important contributions to the Society’s response to the coronavirus pandemic emergency.
We raised the issue of the suspension of the Construction Contracts Adjudication Service, and drafted a letter that issued from the president calling on the service to become operational again.
The committee recognised the importance of providing guidance to the profession on online mediation and arbitration. In collaboration with Law Society Professional Training and its LegalED series, committee members recorded a presentation, ‘Mediation and arbitration – the essentials and the virtual in COVID times’, which was very well received. Pre-COVID, the committee had collaborated with the Litigation Committee on a planned spring mediation seminar (‘The litigator and the Mediation Act 2017 – a year on’), which had to be postponed. The committee, however, continues to look for seminars and speaking opportunities to promote all forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
The committee has provided a series of case notes on interesting ADR decisions in the courts for the Gazette, the website, and social media.
We reviewed all applications to the Law Society’s Arbitration Panel and interviewed candidates. Committee members also provided support to the secretary and the president on queries arising from requests for the president to nominate an arbitrator, mediator or independent expert.
The committee’s appointees to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) National Committee and the ICC Court of Arbitration Commission continue to represent the profession’s interests and keep the committee informed of developments. Committee members, including the chair, are members and continue to support the work of Arbitration Ireland in promoting the country as a venue for cross-border dispute arbitration and promoting reform of the law relating to third-party funding in particular.
We continue to work with Arbitration Ireland, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators – Irish Branch, and others, to support the development of arbitration and adjudication practice in Ireland for domestic and international dispute resolution. The committee liaised with the Guidance and Ethics Committee and the Family Mediation Service of the Legal Aid Board on a Law Society practice note on the enforceability of mediated agreements of separating couples, which was published in May. We have continued to engage with the Child and Family Law Committee, the Mediators’ Institute of Ireland, and the CEO of the Legal Aid Board on the possible establishment by the Minister for Justice of a Mediation Council, and other initiatives. The committee’s work has been consistent with the strategic objectives of the Law Society, specifically with reference to education. Committee members are active contributors at the Law School and assist in preparing diploma courses, and participate in other speaking engagements, lectures and articles. We have worked with the Education Department to ensure greater coverage of ADR (particularly mediation) at PPC level, and have indicated a willingness to contribute to any new courses in this area.
The committee’s work over the past 12 months could not have happened without the enthusiasm and commitment of our vicechair and all of our volunteer members, to whom I extend my sincere thanks.
The Business Law Committee is responsible for representing, informing, and assisting the profession on a broad range of business-law related topics. It also monitors developments in business law and practice.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency in March 2020, the committee has assisted the profession on a range of challenges and issues that have arisen in the practice of company and commercial law in a remote-working environment. The committee has also continued its role of acting as a clearing house for any issues and queries arising under the Companies Act 2014.
In the year under review, the committee made the following submissions:
The committee also issued its guidance note in March 2020 on e-signatures, electronic contracts, and certain other electronic transactions. Our committee could not have known how relevant and timely that note was to become, and I wish to thank my committee colleagues who were involved in the preparation of that note who put a lot of time and effort into it. In November 2019, we held a very well-attended half-day business law conference at the Law Society.
We continue to represent the profession on the CLRG, CRO Link, and the CCBE Private Law and Company Law Committees. I wish to thank committee vice-chair Máire Cunningham and our secretary Joanne Cox for their continued commitment to the work of the committee. My thanks also go to all of my committee colleagues for the generous commitment of time they have given to the committee during a year when there has been a myriad of unprecedented challenges to deal with.
The Conveyancing Committee has had a year like no other, with the second half of it being dominated by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee’s monthly meetings have been held remotely since April, as have meetings of the various committee task forces and meetings with external bodies.
Committee correspondence is now almost 100% by email. This, no doubt, is a reflection of what the profession as a whole has been experiencing in practice since late March 2020.
The committee has continued helping solicitors in matters of conveyancing practice and procedure. The main focus, initially, was in dealing with the effects on the profession of the closure of the Land Registry offices, curtailment of the function of public offices in which searches necessary to the conveyancing process were carried out, and COVID-related reviews of clients’ loan approvals by the banks. The committee assisted with the Society’s various submissions, through the president, to Government, public offices, and to various representative bodies seeking to have these matters addressed.
The early difficulties for conveyancers in finding commissioners to swear declarations resolved themselves with the lifting of travel restrictions and the early designation of legal services as essential services. Conveyancing practitioners were quick to adapt and put procedures in place in their offices to ensure compliance with public-health hygiene recommendations.
The profession is to be commended for its success in ensuring continuity of service during this period.
The committee’s focus has now shifted to finding solutions to the practice issues that manifested during the lockdown period. We set up a new Conveyancing Practice Reform Task Force to bring about changes in conveyancing practice that will help avoid the effects of any further restrictions on movement. This includes, among other matters, a review of the use of declarations, the witnessing of documents, the use of e-signatures, and the potential for increased use of online resources in conveyancing practice. The first step for the task force is to survey the profession to identify and confirm the areas of most concern. There will then be a programme of engagement over the next year or two with members of the profession and external stakeholders, such as the Property Registration Authority (PRA), the Law Reform Commission, Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) and others, to advance the objectives of the task force.
In addition, we continued to deal with our usual volume of day-to-day practice queries from conveyancing solicitors, including:
The committee will continue to represent solicitors’ interests in its engagement with external bodies representing various stakeholders in the conveyancing process, including its ongoing liaison with several external bodies in relation to practice issues that were of major concern to solicitors during the year, including, among other things:
The committee’s task forces continue with a broad range of work that includes:
Thanks are due to all committee members and consultants, vice-chair Sandra Murphy and committee secretary Catherine O’Flaherty, for their time, hard work and support throughout the year, especially during and since the lockdown period, and with their readiness to participate in remote meetings and conference calls at short notice to deal with urgent matters as they arose.
It was another busy year – COVID-19 has dominated much of the year and the work of the committee.
The committee has worked closely with the Courts Service to ensure that practitioners are fully up to date with the latest developments in court business affected by the coronavirus. The committee has done extensive work with the Irish Prison Service. This has included several liaison meetings, which resulted in the installation of several new booths to facilitate video consultations with prisoners and solicitors during the pandemic.
The committee also agreed an operational directive with An Garda Síochána to ensure safe attendance at garda stations and to facilitate the right of a solicitor to be present during interview.
The committee is committed to:
It continues to advocate for legal-aid rate restoration. We continued to assist criminal law practitioners with practice guidance queries, and hosted the committee’s annual conference in November 2019, in conjunction with Law Society Professional Training.
Our next annual conference will be in March 2021.
The mission of the Society’s Law School and Diploma Centre is to enable solicitors to provide excellence in legal services to the public.
The CDU oversees that objective. It meets with the teams running the courses in professional practice, diplomas and certificates, and continuing professional development. It reviews curricula and materials furnished to students of the Law School to ensure that the courses offered at every level are at the highest possible standard.
The CDU suggests improvements for existing courses and topics for new courses and, if considered appropriate, adoption of these by the Law School through the Education Committee.
This year, we reviewed the Professional Practice Conduct and Management module, the Law School psychological services, the Psychology of a Lawyer, the LLM and professional doctorate, the diploma courses, technology in training, Conveyancing and Probate (PPC1), Litigation, the Access Initiative, and noted the introduction of the PPC Hybrid.
The CDU continues to monitor training developments in Britain and the intended introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination from 1 September 2021.
We keep the recommendations of the Peart Commission report on solicitor education under review.
Thanks to each committee member from a wide range of law firms and to Dr Geoffrey Shannon, deputy director of education, for his dedicated support as our secretary, and to all the managers and tutors of the Law School, CPD and Diploma Centre.
The Employment and Equality Law Committee has provided a strong voice in policy debate in order to inform decision-making. For example, the committee made submissions on the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation. It also made submissions to the minister in relation to the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020, the amendment of section 678 of the Companies Act 2014, and responding to separate consultations from the Labour Court and Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on remote hearings related to the COVID crisis.
A subcommittee of members is also finalising submissions to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation regarding their public consultation on guidance for remote working. Throughout this period, committee members also monitored the experience of practitioners attending before the WRC and, along with other stakeholder organisations, have met with representatives of the WRC to offer suggestions for continuous improvement. Additionally, an official liaison has now been established with the Labour Court in order to provide facilitate similar exchange of information. This follows the acceptance by the Registrar of the Labour Court, Jacqui Kelly, of an invitation to speak to the committee on a broad range of issues.
Other developments include agreeing procedures to conduct an annual review of the employment and equality law precedents available to the profession on the Society’s website, and updating template contracts and agreements, workplace policies, and guidelines so as to ensure that they fully comply with current legislation and case law.
The committee continues to provide updates to the profession on relevant legislative, case law, and practice and procedure developments via regular eZine and Gazette articles and via the annual employment and equality law LSPT seminar.
Despite the challenges caused by COVID, the committee has enjoyed a busy year.
Firstly, the committee provides the Society’s representative to the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE). The CCBE monitors and engages with any proposed legal development that affects the governance of the legal profession in Europe. Exchanging information and experience on issues occurring at national level with representatives of the legal professions in other member states is also maintained through roundtable discussions with the Brussels-based representatives of other European bar associations. The most recent of these took place in October 2019.
The committee is represented on the German-Irish Lawyers and Business Association and, in 2020, it established a formal relationship with the International Law Section of the California Lawyers’ Association.
Through these relationships, the committee represents the Law Society and the solicitors’ profession at an international level, facilitating the exchange of information and ensuring involvement and discussion on policy and debate on recent legal developments. From time to time, the committee meets delegations from other jurisdictions and, in December 2019, hosted a delegation of Ukrainian judges. The committee also maintains relationships with the Paris and Madrid Bars, facilitating the placement of newly qualified lawyers in internships.
In November 2019, the committee held a seminar focusing on the law regulating the internet, its efficacy, and proposed developments. Two spring seminars – one on recent developments in competition law, the other a keynote address on challenges to the rule of law – were postponed due to the pandemic. An online version of the former is due to be held later in 2020.
Throughout the year, committee members contributed articles for the ‘Eurlegal’ section of the Gazette on topics including the European Green Deal and threats to the rule of law in Poland. I wish to express sincere thanks to all committee members for their hard work, contributions, and significant input, and to our secretaries, Deirdre Flynn and Suzanne Crilly, for their invaluable support.
‘May you live in interesting times,’ the saying goes, and this has been a year like no other. The Family and Child Law Committee embraced the challenges created by COVID-19.
Our remit to inform and update the profession, as well as the public, came into sharp focus at the outset of the pandemic. The committee provided clear guidelines for both the profession and parents, covering such issues as: access maintenance, domestic violence, childcare proceedings, attending court safely, virtual hearings, pension adjustment orders, and tips for practitioners. We consulted widely during this time, and were delighted to build on the already strong relationships with our counterparts in the Bar Council of Ireland and the Family Lawyers’ Association. The committee engaged with the Courts Service and the judiciary in ensuring access to the justice in the context of family law proceedings, and continues to work closely with the relevant stakeholders. Our members were involved in pilot schemes for remote court hearings.
Other projects and achievements included:
The committee’s educational role has been facilitated through our annual conference, and a number of articles, practice notes and guidance notes were published in the Law Society Gazette. Members have also contributed to CPD seminars and Law School programmes.
I wish to sincerely thank each and every member of the committee for their time, commitment and hard work throughout the year and, in particular, the guidance and support provided by Dr Geoffrey Shannon and my predecessor Keith Walsh. I also wish to express my appreciation for the unstinting support, professionalism and enthusiasm of Aidan Reynolds (vice-chair) and our secretary Fergal Mawe.
The Gazette magazine, together with its daily online news service Gazette.ie (active since 14 November 2018), are among the most important media channels for solicitors. They allow readers to stay on top of the most significant legal news and analysis. These channels feature:
The circulation of the Gazette magazine is increasing year on year, which is due chiefly to a greater number of practitioners on the Roll. While the Gazette magazine remains as popular as ever, Gazette.ie continues to grow its readership base. A total of 452,655 unique visitors clicked on the site in the year under review (1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020) – up 26.6% compared with the previous 12 months. There was a notable increase in visitors during the coronavirus lockdown.
The total number of users was 306,354, with individual page views of 773,174. In all, there were 11,930 downloads of the Gazette magazine in PDF format.
During the coronavirus lockdown, the Gazette team continues to publish the magazine. They deserve great credit for this. Sadly, our printer for many decades, Turner’s Printing, went into liquidation on Friday 13 March, with a loss of 50 jobs. The Gazette is now being printed by Boylan Print Group in Co Louth. The Gazette has always been an innovator and, during the past year, we introduced an alternative to the polybags used to distribute the magazine. The publication is already 100% recyclable, using environmentally friendly paper, inks and varnish. Since the first issue this year, we have been using 100% compostable bio-wraps.
I am most grateful to my Editorial Board colleagues for their dedication, commitment and valuable contributions throughout the year. My congratulations, too, to the Gazette team on its desire to keep innovating, and in its constant efforts to achieve publishing excellence.
In the year under review, the committee has produced a number of practice notes for the assistance of the profession. Two were published in collaboration with the In-house and Public Sector Committee on the subject of legal professional privilege: one for solicitors in private practice; and the second for those working in an in-house role in the public and private sectors. They are available in the July issue of the Gazette and at www.lawsociety.ie.
The committee updated the practice note ‘Transferring Files Between Solicitors’, which is available at www.lawsociety.ie. A complimentary ‘Ten Steps to the Transfer of Files’ was published in the August/September Gazette, directing the profession to the updated practice note on the website.
The ‘Ten Steps Project’ continued this year, providing concise, easily accessible articles that are published in the Gazette and on the website. Three ‘Ten Steps’ articles have been published in the year under review.
The committee has also updated the practice note on ‘Legal Representation at the Mental Health Commission: Guidelines for Solicitors’.
The committee continues to support the profession through the Guidance and Ethics Helpline, where members of the profession can seek guidance on matters of conduct or ethics.
The committee also maintains and updates the online ‘Get a Quote’ forum, which provides members of the public with access to a list of participating solicitors on the Law Society’s website. There are currently 355 firms participating in this forum. This has proved to be a productive committee year. My thanks to all committee members for showing great enthusiasm for the various endeavours undertaken.
This year, the committee continued its programme of activities promoting the law and practice of human rights among the profession and members of the public. Via Alma Clissmann, the Law Society maintains representation at the Access to Justice Committee and the Human Rights Committee of the CBBE.
On 12 October 2019, the committee hosted the 17th Annual Human Rights Conference. The conference, which was widely attended and generated insightful debate, critically explored the operation of the international protection process in Ireland and the impact of direct provision upon asylum seekers.
In November 2019, a committee member (together with a Criminal Law Committee representative), attended before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality to offer observations on the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) (Amendment) Bill 2018. In February 2020, committee members offered observations to the Advisory Group on the Provision of Support, including Accommodation, to Persons in the International Protection Process on legal representation and legal advice provided to applicants in the international protection process.
In June 2020, the committee assisted the Law Society president in researching and preparing a letter to the chair of the Special Oireachtas Committee on COVID-19. This included highlighting issues of access to justice during the pandemic, including the effects of the emergency legislation on the operation of the courts, as well as constitutional and ECHR considerations relevant to the legislation.
The committee prepared a number of submissions, including a joint submission with the Criminal Law Committee on the review of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, as well as submissions on online harassment, harmful communications and related offences, and on the General Scheme of the Housing and Planning and Development Bill 2019. The committee is also continuing its awareness initiatives, with regular contributions to the Gazette, including the ‘Endangered Lawyers’ series.
Members of the committee continue to contribute to Education, offering advice and guidance on relevant course content and as regular contributors to PPC and diploma courses.
My sincere thanks go to all members of the committee for their valuable contributions, hard work, and insightful input throughout the year. In particular, I would like to express my appreciation to vice-chair Thomas Reilly and to Michelle Lynch and Nadya Lazarova as secretaries to the committee for their work and assistance.
The committee continued to provide practical guidance on a variety of queries received from in-house solicitors. A Guide for In-house Solicitors Employed in the Corporate and Public Sectors provides prospective and existing in-house solicitors with key information, coupled with the Society’s Regulatory Guide for In-house Solicitors Employed in the Corporate and Public Sectors. On 11 October 2019, the committee held its annual conference: ‘Technology – the Influence on In-house Counsel’.
On 4 December, the committee held its panel discussion in Galway (having previously held it in Dublin on 16 May 2019) on ‘Enhancing and Demonstrating Value – Sourcing and Managing Legal Services’.
In June 2020, as a result of the public health emergency, the committee released its online panel discussion, ‘Enhancing the Effectiveness of the In-house Legal Team in the Current Climate’. The committee liaised with the Guidance and Ethics Committee regarding the production with counsel of two practice notes on legal professional privilege for private practitioners and in-house solicitors in the private and public sectors, published in the July 2020 Gazette.
Throughout the year, the committee continued to liaise with the Gazette to ensure content relevant to in-house solicitors was included. Our vice-chair, Caroline Dee Brown, is the committee’s liaison on the Gazette Editorial Board. In addition, the monthly in-house update continues to be published on the Society’s website and in each issue of the members’ eZine.
On 5 November 2020, the committee will hold its annual conference (‘Enhancing the Effectiveness of the In-house Legal Team and Legal Professional Privilege for the In-house Solicitor’). The vice-chair and I represented the Society at general assemblies of the European Company Lawyers’ Association.
I would like to thank all committee members for their contribution this year, with special thanks to Caroline Dee Brown (vice-chair) and secretary Louise Campbell.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, the committee continued to meet with stakeholders and considers this an important part of its work.
In the year under review, we held meetings with:
These meetings are in addition to the regular committee meetings and, since March, have been held via Zoom.
Committee members represent the profession on the International Chamber of Commerce Intellectual Property Committee, the Government’s Data Forum, and attended a DCCAE workshop on the Online Safety Media Regulation Bill. The committee continues with the ongoing review of the impact of Brexit on intellectual property law in Ireland, and the transposition of the Copyright Directive, making a submission in autumn 2019.
We continue to assist practitioners in their implementation of the GDPR obligations. Committee members have participated in developing on-line CPD in collaboration with Law Society Finuas Skillnet. They have also collaborated with the Guidance and Ethics Committee in drafting practice notes giving guidance on transferring files. In addition, we regularly assist colleagues with queries on IP and data law.
I wish to thank the committee members for their support and hard work throughout the year.
The Ligation Committee has been extraordinarily busy this year in response to COVID-19. We helped the Society respond to members’ queries and liaised with the Courts Service and the judiciary to minimise the disruption to the administration of justice and the profession. Issues included:
We have publicised important developments in the Law Society’s eZine and the Gazette, also responded to individual queries through correspondence. We engaged on other significant issues, including:
While the coronavirus has dominated the year (and continues to pose huge challenges to the Courts Service and the legal profession), we have striven with the Courts Service and the judiciary to mitigate its impact. Many changes driven by COVID-19 offer long-term benefits to the courts, the profession and, most importantly, clients. For example, technology for electronic bundles and remote hearings is now tried and tested, and has a statutory basis. Such innovations have potential, even when COVID-19 is over. For example, while courts only visit particular towns on circuit, it is now feasible to arrange regular videoconferencing call-overs and directions hearings for procedural motions, timetabling, etc.
Remotely dealing with routine matters can ensure that a judge’s time on circuit is used to maximum effect to deal with cases that require a live hearing. Remote directions hearings can progress cases, leading to faster resolution and the reduction of backlogs.
While progress has been made through the good efforts of all stakeholders, further action will be required to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus and to reduce and eliminate the delays and difficulties it has caused for the operation of the courts. We will continue to contribute to this objective.
The annual seminar took place 29 October 2019, featuring President of the High Court Mary Irvine, Mr Justice David Barniville (who presides over the commercial list), and Angela Denning (CEO of the Courts Service).
Finally, I wish to thank vice-chair Lisa Carty; committee secretary Colette Reid, who has ensured that we met our goals and objectives in 2020; former chair Ronan O’Neill, who is standing down after many years of sterling service on the committee; and Karen McDonnell – our guru on court filings and the Courts Service – who has retired from practice, but has kindly agreed to continue as a member of the committee.
As usual, the committee provided guidance to colleagues in relation to areas of the law and practice as they relate to probate and trusts. The major issue arising this year was the pandemic, and the committee provided specific guidance in relation to best practice both through the President’s Bulletin and to colleagues individually.
It continues to protect the right of clients in nursing homes to have free access to their solicitor without third-party interference, in cooperation with the Mental Health and Capacity Task Force. The committee continues to engage with the relevant government departments in relation to the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015.
It also engages with the Department of Justice in relation to the proposed private member’s bills, the Civil Law (Costs in Probate Matters) Bill 2017 and the Registration of Wills Bill 2016, both of which the committee oppose.
We continue to liaise with the Probate Office on matters including delays reported by members and, in particular this year, with the proposed changes to probate oaths and bonds and probate fees structure due to come into force later this year. In addition, the committee continued to liaise with both the Probate Office and the Revenue Commissioners regarding the proposed online version of the CA 24 Inland Revenue Affidavit. The committee continues to interact with the Revenue Commissioners on areas of concern through TALC and the relevant subcommittees.
We have started to liaise with the Charities Regulatory Authority in relation to their online version of the PAS 3 Charitable Bequest Form, with a view to making improvements. We continued our work regarding the Fourth AML Directive and the potential unintended consequences of its transposition into Irish law in relation to simple will trusts for minor or incapacitated beneficiaries.
The committee engaged with the Society’s Regulation Department and Representation and Member Services Department in the production of new one-page client-care leaflet on enduring powers of attorney, which was published in the year under review.
In addition to individual guidance, we continue to publish articles and provide links of use to colleagues, primarily through the eZine.
In conjunction with our colleagues on the Taxation Committee and the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, the committee held the fourth Probate and Taxation Annual Conference in October 2019, which was well attended and positively received. In addition, committee members continue to speak at Law Society and other seminars throughout the country, including CPD cluster events and various masterclasses.
Challenges for 2020/21 include dealing with the ongoing effect of the pandemic on practice, including lobbying for reform of the law in relation to ‘presence’ when witnessing a will or swearing or affirming an affidavit.
We will continue to explore the possibility of solicitors availing of the dormant accounts legislation for relatively small sums languishing in client accounts; to lobby for an increase in Probate Office staff, the continuation of the District Probate Registries, and greater technical support and a review of the CAT ROS system in order to remove ongoing technical difficulties; and to ensure that solicitors have access to the relevant information they need in order to provide this to their clients.
My thanks to committee secretary Padraic Courtney and all the committee members for their hard work over the year.
The Public Relations Committee works alongside the director of representation and member services Teri Kelly and her department on key communications projects for, and on behalf of, Law Society members.
Following a strategic review of the Law Society’s advertising and marketing campaign in 2019, the first phase of the 2020 campaign was carefully designed to sensitively reflect the reality of Irish life during the COVID-19 pandemic. It sought to reassure clients and members of the public that their solicitor was open for business and was a designated essential-service provider. Advertisements were placed in The Irish Times, on local and national radio stations, and in several local papers across Ireland in May and June of this year. The second phase of the 2020 campaign will proceed later in the year.
One of the annual highlights of the Law Society’s year, the Justice Media Awards, was successfully transformed into a virtual event in June of this year. Court reporting entries earned particular praise among the 33 prize-winning entries, with Conor Gallagher of The Irish Times taking home the Overall Award. As historic as the occasion was, we are hopeful of a return to the traditional JMA presentation ceremony in 2021.
The annual Communications Day was run in November 2019. This targeted media-skills and messaging workshop was specially designed to focus on sole practitioners and smaller practices as part of the Law Society’s Small Practice Support Project. Attendance levels were significantly higher than in the recent past. Colleagues from across the country attended a lively workshop, with expert training by Carr Communications. Like other committees, meetings during 2020 were moved online.
We will continue in this manner until safe to meet again in person, but intend to retain the accessibility afforded by online participation.
I wish to thank committee members for their engagement, commitment and valuable contributions throughout the year, and look forward to continuing our work in 2020/21.
The committee has had another busy year representing the Society and its members in its engagement with the Revenue Commissioners and other stakeholders.
Committee members actively participate in the Tax Administration Liaison Committee (TALC) and its relevant subcommittees, which deal with direct taxes, indirect taxes, capital taxes, audit, tax technical, collection tax issues, base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS), KDB, R&D, and the Companies Act Working Group. The committee is also represented on the CCBE Taxation Group.
The committee also reviewed, to the extent appropriate, and commented on the provisions of the Finance Act 2019 as it passed through the legislative process and summarised its relevant consequences in the annual Tax Guide published and distributed to members.
The committee made numerous submissions to Revenue both via the TALC forum and directly in respect of issues concerning practitioners. In response to the COVID crisis, the committee made tax and other recommendations to assist business and individuals. The committee prepared a pre-budget submission for the Minister for Finance and other relevant Government departments.
The committee continues to provide updates to the profession via practice notes and CPD on changes to tax legislation and Revenue practice and procedures. In October 2019, we collaborated with the Probate Administration and Trusts Committee and STEP to provide the annual probate and taxation CPD seminar. The committee responds to the taxation queries raised by members throughout the year.
I have been ably assisted in my role by committee secretary Dr Rachael Hession, and I thank her for her support and assistance throughout the year. My thanks also to vice-chair John Cuddigan and committee members for their commitment and contributions throughout the year.
The Technology Committee’s role is to monitor the use of technology for the benefit of the profession and to advise on best practice in its use to members. The committee continues to represent solicitors and the Society by liaising with the Courts Service, Revenue Commissioners, Property Registration Authority, and other Government agencies.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, and to assist practitioners, the committee prepared a detailed guidance note for the president on practical solutions to consider when working remotely, which was circulated to members in a President’s Bulletin at the end of March. An updated document was published in the August/ September issue of the Gazette.
A sub-group of the committee, together with representatives from the Litigation Committee, participated in discussions with the Courts Service on the eRemote Hearings Project. A detailed submission of the sub-group’s recommendations was submitted to the Courts Service. The sub-group also took part in mock remote trials preparing for its implementation.
The committee is also involved in the Courts Service eLicensing Project, and has submitted a detailed document with suggested amendments required to ensure that the system works efficiently.
In 2019–2020, the committee prepared guidance notes on:
In addition, the committee members:
I wish to thank my vice-chair, Jane Bourke, for her support and valued input; our hard-working committee members, who ensure that we achieve our goals, in particular Raymond Smith for all his hard work on the eRemote Hearings, eStamping and eLicensing Projects; Jim Heney for his contribution to the eStamping and eRemote Projects; and our diligent secretary Veronica Donnelly.
The Younger Members Committee represents members of the profession who are in their first seven years of practice (regardless of age).
We aim to promote the development of the professional skills of younger members and advocate for their interests and concerns.
In 2019, we hosted a conference entitled ‘The Mindful Lawyer’, which promoted the importance of mindfulness and mental health, as well as providing attendees with a practical toolkit for use in pressurised work environments. The conference received excellent feedback from all attendees.
While this year’s conference has been deferred to March 2021 as a result of COVID and issues surrounding social distancing, we are delighted to collaborate with the Law Society’s Wellbeing Project coordinator by hosting lunchtime information sessions over the course of Mental Health Awareness Week 2020, and we look forward to many more collaborations in the future.
We have also continued raising awareness among trainee solicitors about the work of the Law Society and the benefits of membership. In May 2020, vice-chair Avril Flannery addressed PPC2 students on the benefits of membership of the Younger Members Committee, as part of the Representation and Member Services Zoom presentation on the range of services and supports available to them as future members of the Law Society.
Committee members Cian Moriarty and Fiona McNulty also joined the panel to share their experiences of Law Society committee membership.
We have worked closely with Career Support on updates to the CV register available on lawsociety.ie, and we are pleased to note the inclusion of a ‘regional opportunities’ section in the Legal Vacancies newsletter.
I would like to thank all our committee members for their hard work and valued contributions throughout this year, with special thanks to my vice-chair, Avril Flannery, and new committee secretary Michelle Nolan for their invaluable assistance, enthusiasm, and support.
Chair: Flor McCarthy
Vice-chairs: William Aylmer
Joyce Good Hammond
Chair: Dan Murphy
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Chair: Michele O’Boyle
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Mary Keane
Chair: Carol Plunkett
Vice-chair: Richard Hammond
Michael V O’Mahony
Secretary: Paula Sheedy
Chair: Chris Callan
Vice-chair: Paul Keane
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Cillian MacDomhnaill
Chair: Michele O’Boyle
Secretary: Ken Murphy
Chair: Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Kate Browne
Chair: Stuart Gilhooly
Secretary: Kate Browne
Chair: Martin Crotty
Secretary: Tina Beattie
Chair: Barry MacCarthy
Vice-chair: Bill Holohan
Lay member: Jim O’Mahoney
Consultant: David Curran
Secretary: Sorcha Hayes
Chair: Imelda Reynolds
Vice-chairs: Garry Clarke
Martin Crotty (Advertising
Secretary: John Elliot
Chair: William Aylmer
Vice-chair: Alison Kelleher
Consultant: Anthony Hussey
Secretary: John Lunney
Chair: Neil Keenan
Vice-chair: Maire Cunningham
Secretary: Joanne Cox
Chair: Orla Coyne
Vice-chair: Sandra Murphy
Joyce Good Hammond
Consultant: Rory O’Donnell
Secretary: Catherine O’Flaherty
Chair: Helena Kiely
Vice-chair: John O’Doherty
Secretary: Patricia Harvey
Chair: Brendan Twomey
Vice-chair: Martin Crotty
Secretary: Geoffrey Shannon
Chair: Catherine O’Flynn
Vice-chair: Barry Walsh
Secretary: Liam Dunne
Chair: Stephen Gillick
Secretary: Liam Dunne
Chair: Diane Balding
Vice-chair: Cormac Little
Cormac Ó Cúlain
Secretary: Deirdre Flynn
(with responsibility also for civil legal aid)
Chair: Helen Coughlan
Vice-chair: Aidan Reynolds
Consultants: Rosemary Horgan
Secretary: Fergal Mawe
Chair: Michael Kealey
Patrick J McGonagle
Secretary: Mark McDermott
(with responsibility also for guidance on practice management)
Chair: Justine Carty
Vice-chair: Graham Farrell
John G Harte
Consultant: Brendan Dillon
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Chair: Sinead Lucey
Vice-chair: Thomas Reilly
Consultant: Noeline Blackwell
Secretary: Michelle Lynch
Chair: Anna-Marie Curry
Vice-chair: Caroline Dee-Brown
Sarah Jane Clifford
Secretary: Louise Campbell
Chair: John Cahir
Vice-chair: Deirdre Kilroy
Consultant: Tara MacMahon
Secretary: Katherine Kane
Chairs: Carol Plunkett
Chair: Liam Kennedy
Vice-chair: Lisa Carty
Sonya Morrissy Murphy
Consultant: Stuart Gilhooly
Secretary: Colette Reid
Chair: Pat Bradley
Vice-chair: Anne Stephenson
Secretary: Padraic Courtney
Chair: Sonia McEntee
Vice-chair: Susan Webster
Secretary: Kathy McKenna
Chair: Ruth Higgins
Vice-chair: John Cuddigan
Secretary: Rachael Hession
Chair: Brian Horkan
Vice-chair: Jane Bourke
Labhaoise Ní Fhaoláin
Secretary: Veronica Donnelly
Chair: Jennifer Dorgan
Vice-chair: Avril Flannery
Michael P Quinlan
Observer: current auditor of SADSI
Secretary: Michelle Nolan
Chair: James MacGuill
Secretary: Emma-Jane Williams
Chair: Patrick Dorgan
Vice-chair: Tim Bouchier-Hayes
Cillian Mac Domhnaill
Secretary: Kate Browne
Chair: Eamonn Keenan
Vice-chair: Neil Butler
Secretary: Liam Barrett
Chair: Flor McCarthy
Vice-chair: Jane Bourke
Secretary: Justin Purcell
Chair: Michelle Ní Longáin
Vice-chair: Brendan Twomey
Secretary: Siobhán Masterson
Chair: Paul Keane
Secretary: Simon Treanor
Chair: Richard Hammond
Vice-chair: Áine Hynes
Secretary: Cian Monahan
Chair: Valerie Peart
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Attracta O’Regan
Chair: Keith Walsh
Paul Brady BL
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Co-chair: Ken Murphy
Co-chair: Suzanne Bainton
Secretary: Catherine O’Flaherty
Co-chair: Paul Keane
Co-chair: John Elliot
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
For the year ended 31 December 2019
The Finance Committee is required to prepare financial statements for each financial year.
Click on the link below to view the Law Society of Ireland Reports and Consolidated Financial Statements for the financial year ended 31 December 2019.
For the year ended 31 December 2019
The Regulation of Practice Committee is responsible for ensuring that financial statements are prepared each year which fairly present in all material respects the state of affairs of the Law Society of Ireland Compensation Fund and of its result for that period.
Click on the link below to view the Report and Financial Statements for the Law Society of Ireland Compensation Fund for the financial year ended 31 December 2019.
The Law Society of Ireland is committed to energy efficiency, minimising waste, reducing water consumption, encouraging greener modes of transport, and generally encouraging a culture of sustainability and an awareness of our impact on the environment.
Our full Corporate Responsibility Statement is available at: www.lawsociety.ie/csr
Click on any link below for more details.