The Law Society of Ireland is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors’ profession in Ireland
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..
As at 30 June 2018, there were:
In some ways, the key milestones of the past year have been the extreme weather events we have experienced: hurricane-force winds, snowstorms, and blistering heat-waves. Happily, my term in office, while busy, has not been quite as eventful as the Met Office’s!
“We must internalise and prioritise the benefits of switching off and disconnecting from our work.”
As I noted at the Law Society’s annual dinner in June, our professional persona requires us to be learned, competent, in control and unflappable; but, without the appropriate psychological and emotional support scaffolding, the very things that attracted us to professional life can lead to our undoing. We must internalise and prioritise the benefits of switching off and disconnecting from our work.
One of the key messages of my presidency has been that, as employers and employees, we owe ourselves a duty of care to look after ourselves. My hope is that we, as solicitors, will not forget the things that make life better, such as friendships, pastimes, family time, regular working hours and weekends, and even picking up the phone to each other.
The Law Society also has an important role in helping solicitors weather the storms of professional life. We recently brought consultants from Psychology at Work on-board to assess the mental health and well-being framework already in place for solicitors and to advise on options for the future strengthening of those supports. I’m proud that the Society has taken on this thoughtful, important project in such a positive and proactive way.
Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of my term in office has been the opportunity to meet colleagues across Ireland through bar association meetings and the excellent cluster events that bring solicitors together to share knowledge, solve client problems, and socialise. I have always known that it is important for the president and director general to meet colleagues directly, listen to their particular issues and ideas, and get a sense of emerging trends or concerns. I now consider this aspect of the role of president to be vital and remarkably rewarding in many different ways.
I think it’s fair to say that the cluster events have been of particular benefit to the smaller firms and sole practitioners. Throughout my presidency, I have had this sector firmly in focus. A comprehensive review of the challenges and opportunities, operating environments, and paths to sustainability and growth is nearing completion by our partners Crowe Horwath.
I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of the colleagues who took the time to engage with this process over the past number of months for the benefit of the profession as a whole. We look forward to delivering a number of meaningful, practical recommendations to the smaller firm and sole practitioner sector in the near future.
Later in this annual report, you will find a wonderful snapshot of the brilliant occasions that are Law Society parchment ceremonies. It is somewhat difficult to capture in a few words how uplifting it is to be a part of such an important marker in a solicitor’s career. Solicitor training and ongoing professional education truly are at the heart of the Society.
This annual report also has a feature on the excellent, comprehensive education review and recommendations that will keep the Law Society at the highest international standard of professional legal education.
Finally, as the 147th president of the Law Society of Ireland, I am exceptionally proud to have followed in the footsteps of my mother, Moya Quinlan. Serving as president in 1980/81, she was the first woman to lead the profession, and we are the first mother/son duo to have held this office.
She played a major role in the procurement and development of Blackhall Place as the Society’s headquarters. This is surely one of the highlights of the Society’s rich history, and I am honoured to have been in office to mark the 40th anniversary of the Society moving into this wonderful and important building.
President, Law Society of Ireland
In June of this year, the Council held its most important debate for many years on the topic of solicitor education and training.
“The review actually represents the start of a significant, positive and proactive programme of change, improvement and innovation in the Society’s already excellent education and training offering.”
The end result was the approval of the Society’s substantial submission to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), produced by the Future of Solicitor Education Review Group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart.
The culmination of over a year’s work, the review actually represents the start of a significant, positive and proactive programme of change, improvement and innovation in the Society’s already excellent education and training offering. Among its 30 proposals, the review group recommends the establishment of a Centre for Teaching, Development and Innovation, accelerated access to sitting the FE1s for law students, and the development of a variety of models of training contracts. Substantial changes to the current ‘sandwich’ model of the Professional Practice Course are also planned. You can read more about this exciting, future-proof programme of change in the annual report, and in the July 2018 issue of the Gazette.
The education review was one key focal point within the wider body of work carried out over the past 12 months in preparation for the new regulatory landscape. The Legal Services Regulation Act continues to be commenced in stages, and the Society maintains a strong level of positive engagement with the new authority.
One specific and much sought-after aspect of the new legal services environment has been the introduction of limited liability partnerships. The Society has lobbied hard for this modernising measure since its first submission to Government on the topic, as long ago as 2001. Minister Flanagan’s commitment to commence sections 122 to 132 of the act as soon as the necessary regulations have been drafted by the authority is extremely gratifying, and the Society’s expert submission to the LSRA in August 2018 should be of considerable assistance in this regard.
Brexit continues to dominate public discussion, broadcast airtime and newspaper column inches but, as the clock ticks rapidly down to March 2019, the unsettling lack of clarity that remains would be shocking if it hadn’t been so predictable. Nevertheless, the Society has continued to take a pragmatic approach, maintaining regular communication with the relevant Government departments and other bodies.
With our members and the Irish legal landscape as the firm focus, the Society has endorsed and supported an initiative to promote legal services in Ireland. We have also proposed to the Department of Justice and Equality a number of reforms to attract increased litigation, arbitration and advisory work to our shores. Government investment to improve the efficiency of the justice system will be needed to bring this to fruition. However, such investment should be made in the interests of justice in Ireland, regardless of Brexit.
Meanwhile, the number of solicitors from across the Irish Sea joining the Roll of Solicitors has continued to swell in anticipation of Brexit. At the time of publication, solicitors from England and Wales made up approximately 10% of the total Roll. It is important to note, however, that the numbers taking out practising certificates remain low, and only some two or three England and Wales-based firms have opened offices in this jurisdiction to date.
International media outlets, including the Financial Times, have maintained a close watch on solicitor transfers to the Irish Roll since the 2016 Brexit referendum, and regularly seek the Society’s insights into the phenomenon – an interesting footnote to the ongoing saga.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the extremely able and hardworking staff of the Law Society for their dedication over the past year. Nothing for them is too much trouble, and I am proud to have them as colleagues.
Finally, without the enormous voluntary effort of the hundreds of colleagues who come together and share their expertise through committee and Council membership, the Society would not be what it is today. I want to thank those members who work so hard on behalf of the whole profession and in the interests of justice.
Law Society of Ireland
The Law Society of Ireland’s Strategy Statement 2014-2018 sets out the strategic objectives that the Society will follow.
The vision of the Law Society is to be “the trusted voice of a respected solicitors’ profession”.
Six broad objectives have been set for the period 2014-2018. Each year, the Society will develop an annual operational plan. This sets out the key activities the Society will pursue in any one year, in order to further its strategic objectives:
FUTURE OF EDUCATION
At its meeting in June 2018, the Law Society’s Council debated the topic of solicitor education and training – approving the Society’s substantial submission to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), which was produced by the Future of Solicitor Education Review Group. The review represents the beginning of a significant programme of improvement and innovation for the Society’s already highly regarded education and training offering.
GET READY FOR LIMITED LIABILITY PARTNERSHIPS
During the year, the Law Society made a detailed submission, accompanied by a comprehensive set of draft regulations, to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority on limited liability partnerships. The purpose was to assist the authority in its preparation of draft regulations, which will enable solicitor firms to practise with limitation of liability, as envisaged by sections 122 to 132 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. The Law Society made its first submission to the Government on this topic as far back as 2001.
25 FORMAL SUBMISSIONS MADE TO GOVERNMENT
In the 12 months to July 2018, a total of 25 formal submissions were made to Government, containing practical recommendations for policy and law reform across a range of disciplines including, but not limited to: company law, childcare reform, human rights, and criminal law. During 2018, a dedicated web portal was created to enable easy access to information on the Society’s policy and law reform activities, and other resources – see Policy and Law Reform.
PRACTISING CERTIFICATE NUMBERS BOOST
The number of practising certificates issued by the Law Society at the end of 2017 was 10,461 – up 363 (or plus 3.5%). In the 26 counties, 63% of all practising solicitors in the State are based in Dublin city and county. A total of 19% of practitioners work in-house (excluding those working in the ‘full time service of the State’). Significantly, women comprise 68% of in-house practitioners. This compares with just 48% of female practitioners in private practice. Since the Brexit referendum, over 1,600 England and Wales solicitors have transferred to the Roll in Ireland.
SURVEY OF SOLE PRACTITIONERS AND SMALLER PRACTICES
In April, the Society appointed Crowe Horwath Management Consultants to conduct a review of the challenges and opportunities facing sole practitioners and smaller practices. During June and July, a total of 1,724 firms (92% of the population of solicitors’ firms) were contacted to participate in the survey, with a 20% response rate. Their recommendations will assist in ensuring the growth and development of the profession by empowering practice leaders to make the changes required to optimise their business and attract new clients.
COMPLAINTS AGAINST SOLICITORS HIT HISTORIC LOW
At the end of 2017, the proportion of solicitors against whom an admissible complaint was made hit a 20-year low – just 0.09% of solicitor instructions resulted in complaints. This compares with a high of 14.7% (or 727 of 4,950 solicitors) in 1998. In 2017, 94% of solicitors had no complaints made against them. The number of solicitors against whom complaints have been made has been decreasing steadily at an average rate of 0.4% per year.
IMRO DUETS WITH LAW SOCIETY ON IP AND COPYRIGHT LAW
In response to a fast-changing digital environment, the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) has teamed up with the Law Society’s Education Department to create an IMRO adjunct professorship of intellectual property (IP) law. This new role will be a key resource to the Law Society’s Education Centre, enticing a new generation of lawyers into the music industry in the expanding area of IP and copyright law.
A TALE OF FOUR CITIES
The Calcutta Run celebrated its 20th anniversary with seven events across four cities – Dublin, Cork, Kolkata (India), and New York (USA). On 26 May, 1,500 participants in Dublin ran the 5k or 10k routes via the Phoenix Park, while others opted for a 50k or 100k non-competitive cycle. A day later, 190 runners took part in a 5k in Cork, with similar events organised in Kolkata and New York. The €300k proceeds were shared between the Peter McVerry Trust and The Hope Foundation.
GAZETTE LAUNCHES DAILY NEWS SERVICE
In a fast-moving media environment, this year marked a major turning point for the Law Society Gazette with the launch of Gazette.ie – the daily legal news service aimed at legal practitioners and the general public. This exciting new venture is set to prove popular with commuters, thanks to daily news updates and a breaking news service. Longer analysis articles are available as premium content to members of the Law Society and subscribers.
CLOSURE OF FOUR COURTS PUBLIC RESTAURANT
Practitioners and members of the public reacted with shock when they were given just one week’s notice of the closure of the public restaurant in the Four Courts. Despite the Law Society’s best efforts to halt plans to close the facility – which included letters to the Minister for Justice, the Minister of State Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, and to Chief Justice Frank Clarke in his capacity as chair of the Courts Service Board – the restaurant closed permanently on 31 July.
Celebrating 40 years in Blackhall Place
The Society’s long stewardship of the building has been celebrated for preserving a valuable part of Ireland’s architectural heritage.
The Law Society’s decision to purchase Blackhall Place in 1968 was a radical and far-seeing one, at a time when Georgian architectural treasures were undervalued in Ireland.
Originally the site of the King’s Hospital School, whose charter dates from 1671, the building is acknowledged as one of the finest in Dublin. In 1952, the late architectural historian Maurice Craig described Blackhall Place as “one of the most beautiful and, in its way, original” of Dublin’s major buildings.
Designed by Thomas Ivory in 1772, Blackhall Place was modelled on the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, as well as City Hall on Dame Street. On completion, it immediately became one of the most celebrated buildings in Dublin. “It is almost certain that James Hoban, the architect of the White House, who was a student of Thomas Ivory, worked on Blackhall Place under Ivory,” says architect Brian O’Connell.
The Law Society’s timely occupation of the building has been lauded for its preservation of a valuable part of Ireland’s architectural heritage. The Solicitors’ Building at the Four Courts was bursting at the seams from the 1960s onwards, and there was a suggestion that professional bodies should, as an act of good citizenship, interest themselves in some of Dublin’s old buildings then languishing on the market.
The Society’s long stewardship of the building has been celebrated for preserving a valuable part of Ireland’s architectural heritage. In 1988, on the tenth anniversary of the Law Society finally moving its operations there, the Irish Architectural Archive praised the “responsible care” of the Society’s guardianship of Blackhall Place, which it said “assures its future”.
James Howley (of Howley Hayes in Blackrock, Co Dublin, the Society’s conservation architects) describes Blackhall Place as “a building of the first order and one of the jewels of Dublin”.
The decision to buy Blackhall in 1968 was a radical one, says James, since the fashion of the day was for new rather than old buildings. “This project set a healthy precedent for the repair and reuse of old buildings at a time when the value of our Georgian architectural heritage was not widely appreciated in Ireland.”
Howley describes the Law Society’s use of its building as appropriate and sympathetic, adding layers of significance that now position Blackhall Place as a source of national – and even international – cultural importance.
A Society committee appointed to examine the matter recommended the purchase of the King’s Hospital for the sum of IR£105,000. The contract was completed on 9 July 1968. The existing King’s Hospital school relocated to Palmerstown in west county Dublin in 1970. But the move to Blackhall was not a simple matter. A Society premises committee, established in 1969, estimated that the cost of both the purchase and refurbishment of the building eventually would run to £325,000. The escalating costs caused concern and, by 1971, there were mutterings that the project should be abandoned. But when former Law Society President Moya Quinlan, together with Council member Peter Prentice, took on the project, matters progressed immediately. The pair pushed for a gradual occupation of the new premises, with redevelopment on a phased basis. A fund-raising programme was initiated to deal with the spiralling costs.
Finally, on 14 June 1978, the Law Society occupied the beautiful, historic building that had been entrusted to its care. Blackhall Place would function as the administrative headquarters for the solicitors’ profession, a law school, and a meeting place for all occasions.
The old and beautiful parts of the premises were both preserved and improved, then pressed into modern use.
Given its importance in historical and architectural terms, the Law Society tries to give as much public access as possible. Blackhall Place is one of hundreds of buildings around the country that are opened to the public on Culture Night in September each year. Tours are organised for hundreds of visitors from all over the city, while significant numbers of locals take the opportunity to pay their first visit to the building.
Public access is also granted during the Open House event, Heritage Week, and the Smithfield and Stoneybatter Festival. The grounds are also made available to local schools for sports days, and to charities for various events.
One of the most gratifying aspects is that it is very much a living building, with activity from 7am until 10pm, Monday through Friday, while the site is in full business tilt most Saturday mornings.
In conservation terms, there is an inevitable slight tension between that and the Society’s functional needs. A comprehensive conservation plan was developed in 2016. However, as James Howley concludes: “It’s hard to think of a more suitable occupant and guardian of this important historic place than the current owners, the Law Society of Ireland.”
The independent review group was of the opinion that the use of some digital technologies by the Education Centre was ahead of the field in legal services education. In addition, continuing professional development in the form of diplomas and MOOCs led the field.
The Law Society Council, at its meeting on 8 June 2018, approved the Society’s submission to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority on the subject of solicitor education and training in Ireland.
This was the Council’s most important debate for a great many years on the issue of solicitor education. The Society had been working, directly and indirectly, on the review for over a year.
It began by commissioning a report on the current state of legal education and training. The review was carried out by a group of independent, international experts, led by Toronto-based Prof Paul Maharg, Prof Jane Chang, and Jenny Crewe Consulting. Their comprehensive report was submitted to the Law Society in January 2018.
This report was examined by the Law Society’s Future of Solicitor Education Review Group – a ten-person group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart (Court of Appeal). Its terms were to review the content and structure of the legal education of solicitors in Ireland in the context of section 34(1) of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, and the recommendations of the Maharg report. It considered the education and training of solicitors for the future, with a view to ensuring that the educational model in Ireland is on a par with best practice internationally.
The Society’s review group produced a draft report for adoption by the Council. Its detailed examination developed 30 specific changes and improvements, including the establishment within the Law School of a Centre for Teaching, Development and Innovation. These were adopted by the Council.
Commenting on the Professional Practice Course (PPC), the Maharg Review Group found that the structures of teaching were “well organised and designed, practices. Some aspects of initial professional education provision for solicitors are ahead of the field in legal services education.”
The independent review group was of the opinion that the use of some digital technologies by the Education Centre was ahead of the field in legal services education. In addition, continuing professional development in the form of diplomas and MOOCs led the field.
The Law School is committed to building on its successes and to expanding its focus on innovation into all aspects of legal education and practice – and not simply in the use of technology.
The solicitors’ profession in Ireland is proud of the diversity of its members. Since 2015, women have outnumbered men in the profession. The profession has also been attractive to mature entrants. Over the last ten years, between 10% and 15% of each new PPC has consisted of those over the age of 30. Qualifying as a solicitor is seen as an attractive ‘second chance’ career.
The Law School has been engaged in a number of initiatives to open up professional training to applicants from a background of socio-economic disadvantage. It introduced an access scheme in 2000, which waives fees and provides maintenance payments and ongoing assistance to suitably qualified candidates. One of the new recommendations is that the access programme is further developed and that additional funding be provided.
The FE1s will remain in place as the entrance assessment for those wishing to train as solicitors. This is to ensure a common knowledge of core academic legal subjects among applicants drawn from the 19 law degree providers in Ireland – and from non-law graduates and others. The alternative to the FE1s is a system of standard setting and assessment of undergraduate law provision that would prove to be expensive and controversial.
A variety of models of training contracts will be developed to improve the diversity of the training contracts provided. This may include a number of firms sharing a trainee where such firms would have difficulty funding a trainee themselves. These new models will be promoted by the Law School.
The prescription of discrete blocks of practice experience will be removed. Over the two years of the training contract, trainees will be required to gain reasonable and appropriate experience in three out of seven broad areas of legal practice.
The current ‘sandwich’ model of the PPC will end. All current compulsory content from PPC 1 and 2 will be covered in the initial compulsory element of the PPC. In addition to current course subjects, this course will comprise 21st century skills, such as leadership, project management and ADR. Current subjects will not be taught in as much detail as they are now. Criminal litigation and employment law will no longer form part of this course. The PPC will make greater use of skills workshops, as well as problem-based and transactional learning.
The Future of Solicitor Education Review Group recommended that the Law School make urgent arrangements for designing and implementing a part-time, block-attendance, or blended-learning PPC programme, similar to those available in England and Wales, Scotland, and the King’s Inns. This should improve access for mature and regional students.
The review group also recommended increasing the physical resources available for education. The review group was aware of the current restrictions on space available for educational activities. This is hindering the Law School in innovating and expanding its educational offerings, and in delivering smaller group, ‘break-out’, and active-learning activities.
At a minimum, it is estimated that 10-15 new tutorial rooms are required in the short-term. An assessment of future needs should be undertaken to identify what additional space is necessary to future-proof facilities.
Among the most exciting recommendations of the review group is that the Law School should create a dedicated Centre for Teaching, Development and Innovation. This centre will bring together learning and development, technology, psychological services, and innovation. Other recommendations in the report relate to the Preliminary Exam and the QLTT.
The public’s growing general level of education, coupled with easier access to specialist knowledge afforded by technology, has meant that clients no longer rely solely on specialists to access and interpret knowledge. The solicitor who traditionally held an expertise in a particular area of practice will become less valuable, the review group states.
The Law School will need to ensure that it trains and supports the learning and development of solicitors, who, in addition to the vertical scope of their legal knowledge, possess another horizontal range of 21st century skills and competencies (that is, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication and collaboration).
The report concludes that additional capacities such as leadership, technology and entrepreneurship, as well as a breadth of knowledge of other industries and disciplines outside of the legal profession and law, will equip solicitors to compete successfully with other professions.
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.
names on the Roll of Solicitors
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: Michael Quinlan
SENIOR VICE-PRESIDENT: Patrick Dorgan
JUNIOR VICE-PRESIDENT: Michelle Ní Longáin
COUNCIL MEMBERS: James Cahill, Christopher Callan, Justine Carty, Brendan Cunningham, Maura Derivan, Paul Egan, Stuart Gilhooly, John Glynn, Richard Hammond, Eamon Harrington, Paul Keane, Liam A Kennedy, Morette Kinsella, Martin Lawlor, Rosemarie Loftus, Barry MacCarthy, Flor McCarthy, Sonia McEntee, Michele O’Boyle, Daniel O’Connor, Deirdre O’Sullivan, Valerie Peart, Liam Quirke, Thomas Reilly, Imelda Reynolds, Catherine Tarrant, Brendan J Twomey, Keith Walsh
PAST-PRESIDENTS: Kevin O’Higgins, James McCourt, Simon Murphy
PROVINCIAL DELEGATES: Leinster: Martin Crotty; Munster: Shane McCarthy; Ulster: Garry Clarke; Connaught: David Higgins
DUBLIN SOLICITORS' BAR ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVES: Áine Hynes, Joe O’Malley, Tony O’Sullivan
SOUTHERN LAW ASSOCIATION REPRESENTATIVES: Robert Baker, Joan Byrne, Siún Hurley, Terence O’Sullivan, Anne-Marie Sheridan
LAW SOCIETY OF NORTHERN IRELAND REPRESENTATIVES: Eileen Ewing, Ian Huddleston, Suzanne Rice, John Guerin, Arleen Elliott
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.
The Society was pleased to welcome Barbara Carroll to the role of Human Resources Director of the Law Society of Ireland, in August 2018.
View a list of Law Society staff.
Reports from the Society's Departments of Policy and Public Affairs, Representation and Member Services, Education, Regulation and Finance and Administration.
formal submissions were made to Government with recommendations for policy
and law reform
across a range of disciplines
The Society’s Policy and Public Affairs Department continues to engage with decision-makers and contribute to discourse about developments affecting law, legal policy and legal practice.
As the issue of Brexit continues to dominate public discussion – but with little clarity as to the final outcome – the Society has adopted a pragmatic approach, maintaining regular communications with stakeholders such as the Department of Justice and the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The Society’s membership of the IBA, the CCBE and the Four Jurisdictions Forum all serve to maintain Brexit as an important agenda item for the Society and its committees in assessing the impact of Britain’s departure on legal practice. The Society has endorsed and supported an initiative to promote legal services in Ireland as a facilitator of commerce and has also proposed a number of reforms to the Department of Justice and Equality in order to attract increased litigation, arbitration, and advisory work to Ireland.
In the 12 months to July 2018, 25 formal submissions were made to Government, containing practical recommendations for policy and law reform across a range of disciplines including, but not limited to, company law, childcare reform, human rights, and criminal law. The volunteerism and expertise of the 433 members working across 28 committees, working groups and task forces enables the production of high-quality commentary on proposals, based on practitioners’ experience and expertise.
The department is excited to be executing one of the president’s key objectives for the year: a review of the challenges and opportunities facing sole practitioners and smaller practices. The resurgent economy, alongside the increased impact of new technology and changed consumer behaviour, has implications for the manner in which legal services are delivered. In April, the Society appointed Crowe Horwath Management Consultants to conduct a review of this sector. During June and July, 1,724 firms (92% of the population of solicitors’ firms) were contacted to participate in the survey, with a 20% response rate. It is intended that their recommendations will assist in ensuring the growth and development of the profession by empowering practice leaders to make the changes required to optimise their business and attract new clients.
The department is also supporting the president with his initiative to on mental health and wellbeing supports for practitioners. In July, the Society appointed a firm of consultants, Psychology at Work, to review the existing mental health and wellbeing supports provided by the Society for its members and to advise on the best options for strengthening these supports. Psychology at Work will conduct focus groups, a survey and telephone interviews, as well as a literature review and discussions with other stakeholders, and will report before year-end.
The department provides the Anti-Money-Laundering Helpline to assist members to navigate their AML obligations. Usage has tripled in the past ten years, and the increase in volume is often matched by an increase in complexity. Legislation implementing the fourth and fifth EU AML Directives will introduce additional obligations and a requirement for continued support.
The policy and law reform function of the Society communicates widely with Government, the media, and the public through our regular Policy and Law Reform Agenda newsletter - distributed in hard copy to 250 Oireachtas members, Government officials and civil society organisations. In addition, during 2018, a dedicated web portal was created to enable easy access to information on our activities and other resources – see www.lawsociety.ie/policyandlawreform.
views of the Law Society website for the year ended 30 June 2018 (up 10%)
Talk to your solicitor. Your solicitor is your trusted advisor. The Law Society is the trusted voice of a respected solicitors’ profession.
These are the messages that are at the core of every public communication the Law Society makes. In the national and local media, in our radio ads, on our website, on social media, and with any of the other tools we have to reach the public, we work to underscore the value and strengths of the solicitors’ profession.
This year, we continued to proactively promote and, where necessary, defend the solicitors’ profession in the media. Stories have included the solicitors’ role in seeking justice for victims of medical negligence, investment in the family law courts system, legal costs, the changing demographics of the solicitors’ profession, the solicitor’s role in GDPR compliance, complaints against solicitors being at historic lows, and many more.
Our online communications continue to increase in importance and to reach the profession and the public. We have augmented our public communications on our website with the launch of a series of legal guides and multilingual information leaflets for use by members to communicate with their clients. We are also promoting the ‘Find a Solicitor’ search function through Google and the optimisation of lawsociety.ie content for higher organic results.
Income from ‘Legal Vacancies’, our website for solicitor job advertising, has quadrupled since its launch in 2015 and is expected to top €225,000 in 2018.
Followers and interactions on Law Society social media channels have outpaced expectations, with over 7,800 followers on Twitter, 10,200 likes on the Law School’s Facebook, and 10,800 followers on our LinkedIn company page.
The Law Society entered a new era of communication with the launch of Gazette.ie. This daily legal news service, which is aimed at legal practitioners and the general public, delivers fresh news from Monday to Friday and ‘long reads’ on weekends.
Yet again, the Gazette magazine was one of the big winners at the Irish Magazine awards, securing the top prizes for ‘Designer of the Year’ and ‘Cover of the Year’ in the business magazines category.
The Law Society Library dealt with 5,435 queries and lent 4,382 books in the 12 months ending 30 June 2018. An analysis of enquiries for the six-month period from January to June 2018 indicates that over 75% of enquiries come from sole practitioners and small firms. We also updated a range of subject resource lists on the library catalogue, including topics such as artificial intelligence, Brexit, data protection (including GDPR), in-house lawyers, cybercrime, and more.
The information and personal assistance provided to members by Support Services has changed in response to requirements. We have expanded the ‘Returners’ programme, which supports solicitors who want to return to work after time looking after family responsibilities. The ‘55+ Options’ programme was started this year to assist solicitors with succession, retirement and financial planning. A dedicated small practice support service was also established during the year.
The second annual Spring Gala saw 350 solicitors from every segment of the profession get to know one another better over dinner at the Shelbourne Hotel, while raising much-needed funds for the Solicitors’ Benevolent Association.
For the year ended 30 June 2018, the Law Society website received 4.8 million views (a 10% increase on last year) by over 720,000 visitors.
Legalvacancies.ie had 2.5 million views by over 200,000 visitors.
The judgments database (1952 to date) contains almost 15,000 reserved written judgments. We added over 1,300 full-text court judgments to the database in the period.
trainees started the PPC I in September 2018 – the largest course in ten years
Much of the year was spent in an analysis of solicitor education in Ireland – looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and putting plans in place for the future. An external review was initially conducted by Prof Paul Maharg, Prof Jane Ching and Jenney Crewe. This multinational team found much that was strong in our system, but also made detailed recommendations on changes they thought necessary to improve the process. This informed the deliberations of a Law Society working group that prepared a submission for the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. This submission contains 30 recommendations to reshape and improve the education system. This forms a detailed road map for change over the next few years.
The year 2017 was the second-highest on record for admissions to the Roll of Solicitors, with 1,050 admissions. This was only surpassed in 2016. As with 2016, the main driver for this is admissions from Britain: 675 solicitors from England and Wales and from Northern Ireland were admitted. This Brexit surge is continuing unabated and, as of 11 September 2018, a further 411 solicitors have been admitted.
In September 2018, 448 trainees commenced the PPC I. This is a significant increase on the 412 trainees in 2017. This is the largest course in ten years and is based on an increase in training contracts offered by a variety of practices, as well as solicitors working in-house.
Trainee solicitors continue to match and defeat their peers in international advocacy. Sorcha Cusack (McCann FitzGerald), Sinead Gleeson (A&L Goodbody) and Niamh Diskin (Eversheds Sutherland) came third in the International Environmental Court Competition. Their written arguments also ranked third, and Sorcha received an individual speaker award. Our Telders International Moot Court team of Kevin Flood (William Fry), Sinead McDonagh, Lauren Dooley and Sam O’Connell (Arthur Cox) won the award for best respondent arguments, and Kevin was recognised as the best advocate in the competition.
At post-qualification level, the Diploma Centre continues to thrive. In excess of 1,000 attendees attended over 30 diploma and certificate courses during the last 12 months. A free MOOC (massive open online course) was provided on sports law. Over 2,500 participants from around the world took part. We were delighted that, for the third year running, the Diploma Centre won the Irish Law Award for service provider to the legal profession. This year, a second LLM course in employment law was added to our roster of courses, and work is ongoing on a professional doctorate.
A number of public law projects were offered this year. Forty trainee solicitors taught courses in law at schools in areas of socio-economic disadvantage and in prisons. Several solicitors undertook a course in public legal education and went on to use these skills in various ways. A programme was offered for transition-year students, focusing on practising as a solicitor and the legal system.
Large numbers have been attending Law Society Professional Training's mix of seminars, conferences and master classes. Regional cluster conferences are being held all over Ireland in association with local bar associations, and these are going from strength to strength.
practising certificate holders:
and 48% male
The Regulation Department continues to engage with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. We have provided very significant input into the Society’s submissions to the authority on the Legal Services Regulation Act and the Solicitors Acts and on legal partnerships, which are available on the Society’s website at www.lawsociety.ie/LSRA. The department is a key participant in the Society’s Legal Services Regulation Act Task Force.
We continue to prepare for the impact of Brexit. In the most recent completed practice year (2017), 245 Irish practising certificates were issued to British solicitors, and 12 British law firms have established a branch office in Ireland since the Brexit referendum. The propensity of clients to make a complaint against their solicitor has now reduced to one-third of what it was 20 years ago, and the overall likelihood of a complaint being made against a solicitor – by either a client or a non-client – is two-fifths of what it was 20 years ago. This is attributable to a number of factors, including increased effectiveness of the Society’s regulatory system and increased focus, through PII, on firm risk-management procedures.
There are now 10,799 practising certificate holders, of which 52% are female and 48% male.
From July 2017 to June 2018, six solicitors were struck off the Roll of Solicitors and nine solicitors were suspended.
The investigation of solicitors’ practices is increasingly resulting in hard-fought litigation, with some solicitors going to extraordinary lengths to conceal dishonesty. It continues to be necessary to bring some solicitors to the High Court to ensure cooperation with the regulatory process.
The department has been heavily engaged in conducting substantial litigation taken against the Society, with some 23 days of evidence in the High Court. Judgment has been reserved. An expanded Regulatory Legal Services Section has reduced the department’s dependence on external legal representation, resulting in significant cost saving.
We have engaged in extensive work in connection with anti-money laundering, cybersecurity and advertising regulations, which is covered in the Regulation of Practice Committee report. A new AML compliance executive working group was established to review the Society’s systems for enforcing compliance by the solicitors’ profession with AML obligations. We regularly give talks on regulatory requirements at cluster events and bar association seminars. In September 2017, the department published a regulatory guide for in-house solicitors employed in the corporate and public sectors, which is on the Society’s website at www.lawsociety.ie/inhouse-public-committee.
The Regulation Department continues to improve the common proposal form and professional indemnity insurance (PII) guidelines. Extensive PII information can be found on the Society’s website at www.lawsociety.ie/PII, including regulations, minimum terms and conditions, the common proposal form, guidance notes, and insurer and broker details.
From July 2017 to June 2018, the Society received 26 queries from the Office of the Ombudsman relating to complaints about solicitors not upheld and refusal of grants from the compensation fund. The Society assists the ombudsman by providing copy files and explanations about the Society’s procedures.
The department continues to progress its part of the ‘System 360’ project, which will fundamentally improve information technology used to achieve a more user friendly electronic environment for our members. In addition, the department was intensively involved in preparations for GDPR this year.
was raised by members of the profession in the 2018 Calcutta Run
The Finance and Administration Department’s job is to provide internal services, infrastructure, and support to the Society’s core functions of representation, education and regulation. We like to regard ourselves as the ‘oil in the system’.
One of our core responsibilities is finance. That doesn’t mean simply taking in money and spending it, but involves prudent financial management, ensuring value for money for all expenditure, having appropriate financial processes and control environments, and protecting the Society’s financial and physical assets. In 2017, the Society’s income was €25.6m, an increase of 3%. Expenditure was €25.1m, an increase of 8%. Broadly, 63% of this was on representation and regulation, with the balance of 37% being spent on education activities. We work to ensure that members and students get value for money, and we do this through a deep, detailed budgeting process, close monitoring of the finances throughout the year, and longer term planning through a five-year planning process. The finance function also oversees the ongoing financial elements of the sale of the SMDF and, to date, all is going according to plan. The department is also liaising with the LSRA in relation to the financial dimensions of the authority and planning how best to minimise the impact of this on the practising certificate fee.
At the end of 2017, the department once again put in place two important member schemes. The Finance Scheme for preliminary tax, pension contributions, professional indemnity insurance costs, and practising certificate fees proved as attractive as ever. Over 140 loans were taken out, with an aggregate value of over €4m.
The other scheme was the Group Life Scheme, and this provided a benefit of €47,500k to the families of 12 solicitors over the past year.
The facilities function, which has responsibility for maintaining and protecting the historic building of Blackhall Place and the operation of the overall site, continued its work in implementing the conservation plan developed in 2014. A number of major building projects were finished in the last 12 months, including the ‘Academic Street’, the rendering of the library wall, improvements to drainage works, realignment of ‘Oxmanstown Green’, acoustics work in the Presidents’ Hall, clearance of the Benburb Street site, significant upgrade to some public areas within Blackhall Place, and the provision of storage areas. We opened Blackhall Place to the public on Culture Night, Heritage Week, Open House, and for the Smithfield/Stoneybatter Festival. The premises and grounds were also made available to numerous local schools and charities throughout the year.
The IT section has also had a very busy 12 months, the primary driver of this being the continued implementation of ‘System 360’, which is a very significant investment in a member-management system approved by the AGM in 2015 with a budget of €3.5m. This Society-wide project will ensure that all the Society’s systems adequately support its various roles into the future, will integrate the membership and education systems, and will include member-friendly interfaces to ensure efficient online interaction between members and the Society. Phase 1 successfully went live in June 2017, with both the PII renewal process 2017 and the practising certificate renewal process 2018 being managed on the system. There will be further developments in both of these areas for the upcoming renewals, with the facility for more efficient online renewals. Like every organisation, cyber-security exercised the minds and resources of the IT section throughout the year, with the development of a cyber-strategy, continued external review of the robustness of our IT security, and an educational/awareness programme rolled out to all staff with the objective of protecting our information assets.
The department was the main driver for the Society’s involvement in the Calcutta Run 2018. There were 1,000 runners/walkers and almost 120 cyclists, and the money raised was close to the 20th anniversary target of €300k, giving each of the Peter McVerry Trust and the Hope Foundation €150k each and bringing the 20 year total to €4m.
In providing these various infrastructures to the other departments in the Society, the Finance and Administration Department played a key role in the achievements of the strategic objectives set out for 2014-2018.
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 chairman 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.
The Complaints and Client Relations Committee considers complaints about the adequacy of professional service, standards of professional conduct, and the level of fees. It operates in three separate divisions, each consisting of three solicitor members and four lay members. The committee met in plenary session or in divisions 23 times during the year and dealt with 167 new matters. The committee referred 23 matters to the disciplinary tribunal.
A total of 1,113 complaints were made during the year under review, 253 of which were deemed to be inadmissible. This represents a drop of 294 complaints over the preceding year and is a continuation of the ongoing reduction in complaint numbers (see www.lawsociety.ie/ccrc).
Once again, the fall is attributable to the fall in complaints about solicitors’ undertakings.
The proportion of solicitors against whom an admissible complaint has been made is at a 20-year low. It is estimated that the likelihood of a complaint against a solicitor is half of what it was ten years ago and two-fifths of what it was 20 years ago.
The investigation of complaints is subject to review by the Independent Adjudicator of the Law Society and by the Office of the Ombudsman. In the past 18 months, the committee has noted a significant increase in the number of reviews carried out by the latter.
A subdivision of the committee has been tasked with drafting rules of procedure relating to complaints made under sections 8 and 9 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 (complaints of inadequate services and excessive fees). A consultation process is underway.
It is expected that the Legal Services Regulatory Authority will take over the committee’s role in complaints handling in mid-2019.
I would like to thank the committee members for the time, care, and attention that they devote to the committee’s work.
The Coordination Committee operates as a link between the Society’s committees and the Council, with an oversight role for the projects undertaken by each of the Society’s committees. In this capacity, it reviews the benefits 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 to consider ongoing issues and to plan for the year ahead. It also coordinates the annual training workshop for committee members, which this year focused on strategic leadership, successful project delivery, and thriving through connections with others.
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, the committee addressed a number of issues, including:
The committee received the report of Prof Paul Maharg, and the Council appointed the Future of Solicitor Education Review Group, whose report formed the Society’s submission to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority under section 34 of the act.
The Council approved the report, and the committee will oversee the implementation of its 30 recommendations, among which will be new education regulations.
The committee will prepare for the Legal Services Regulatory Authority report on education and will continue work to improve the premises and facilities used for courses. We will monitor changes in our neighbouring jurisdictions of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
A practice management standard is being prepared.
The committee will continue to implement the Future of the Law Society Task Force Report.
The Diploma Centre and Law Society Professional Training continue to operate successfully, providing postgraduate courses and collaborating with local bar associations in running CPD Cluster events. The Diploma Centre won ‘Best Service Provider to the Legal Profession’ at the Irish Law Awards 2018.
We introduced an LLM in Employment Law and Practice in collaboration with Northumbria University.
The Academic Street renewal project was successfully completed.
My thanks to the director of education, TP Kennedy, deputy director of education Dr Geoffrey Shannon, committee secretary Paula Sheedy, the CPD unit, and all the staff in the Education Department, Traineeship, Professional Training, and the Diploma Centre for their support.
Sincere thanks to all committee members and consultants and particularly to my vice-chair Keith Walsh for his support.
Financially, 2017 mirrored 2016. General activities were budgeted at a surplus of 1% of income, and Law School activities were budgeted at break-even. Both performed better than this. The general activities performance, aided by a €50 increase in the practising certificate fee for 2017, enabled the ring-fencing of €700k to an LSRA Levy Fund, which will be used to lessen the impact of the first LSRA levy expected in 2019.
The after-tax surplus from operations was €529k (2016: €1.2m). This equates to 2% of operational income. The before-tax general activities surplus was €466k, which was better than budget by €263k. Education activities made a surplus of €240k against a budgeted surplus of €13k. Reserves, including amounts allocated to the Capital Expenditure, Litigation, and LSRA Levy Funds increased, before adjustments, by €1.7m (2016: €1.8m). 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 one is the inclusion of income of €2m raised through the practising certificate fee to fund the remaining deferred cost of the sale of the SMDF. The second major adjustment provides an additional €2.5m based on a revaluation of the Benburb Street site from €7.5m to €10m.
In accordance with current accounting standard FRS102, the financial performance of the staff pension scheme must also be shown in both the income statement and the balance sheet. In 2015, there was a positive readjustment of €2.5m in the pension liability but, in 2016, there was a negative adjustment of €4.8m. In 2017, there was a positive adjustment of €1.5m.
The Finance Committee is not concerned about this as, given good pension scheme investment returns in 2017, this movement is totally attributable to the movement in the bond rate used to calculate the FRS102 liability. Measured through actuarial valuations done by Mercer, our pension scheme is in good health. It is unfortunate that the accounting standard creates artificial surpluses and deficits.
Overall, these adjustments result in showing the Law Society, which had an operational surplus of €1.7m, as having an overall accounting surplus of €6.6m.
To further complicate matters, the operational surpluses for the Law Society are incorporated in ‘group’ accounts that include all Law Society subsidiaries. Overall, the Law Society’s group made a surplus of €6.6m (2016: loss €6.3m) after tax and exceptional items. The group accounts give a full picture of the financial performance and financial position of all Law Society operations, but they can distort the view of the performance of the various elements of the operation, given that inter-entity trading must be eliminated.
The ‘Overall Results’ table shows the management account results, which are the actual operating outcomes of the various elements of the Law Society’s operations.
Total income was €25.7m, which was €814k ahead of 2016 (€24.8m). Practising certificate, membership, and admission fees were €14.7m (2016: €13.7m), an increase of 7%. This increase was driven by a 4% increase in practising certificate numbers, a €50 increase in the practising certificate fee, and significant admission fees as a result of Brexit admissions to the Roll. Education income, at €9.6m, was down by 1%, and income from other sources, such as advertising, publications and the Four Courts, at €1.4m, was €180k below 2016.
In 2017, there were 10,470 (2015: 10,080) practising certificate holders, which was an increase of 390 (4%) on 2016. Of this increase, 146 were attributable to Brexit admissions. The additional 390 practising certificates accounted for €589k of the income increase, and the fee increase accounted for approximately €400k. Membership numbers, at 11,454 (2016: 11,025), increased by 429. Membership numbers include 238 solicitors who avail of free membership on the basis of being over 50 years admitted or being unemployed. There were 1,050 admissions to the Roll in 2017 (2016: 1,406). There were 576 Brexit admissions during the year. Practising certificate fee income totalling €1.1m (2016: €557k) was allocated to the Capital Expenditure Fund (€145k), the Litigation Fund (€292k) and the SMDF Levy Fund (€700k). The year-on-year difference is accounted for by the reallocation of the €700k from general activities to the LSRA Levy Fund.
Education activities income was €9.6m (2016: €9.7m). Of this, income from Professional Practice Courses, exams, etc, accounted for €6.5m, and professional training (LSPT) seminars, diploma courses, and grants accounted for €3.1m. There were 411 PPC1 students in September 2017 (2016: 405). FE1 sittings – at 2,238 (2016: 2,058), while continuing to grow at about 8% – are still very far off their high of 3,328 in 2007.
Diploma course income, at €2m, was €157k ahead of 2016. LSPT, with its Skillnet and Finuas programmes, had overall income, including grants, of €1.2m (2016: €1.2m).
Overall expenditure was €25.2m, which was an increase of 8% on 2016 (€23.4m). On the general activities side, the increase of €1.5m was caused by an increased FRS102 pension adjustment of €383k, increased operational and depreciation costs associated with the new member engagement system (System 360), and a significant increase in legal fees in both the general regulatory area and Complaints and Client Relations.
Education activities operational charges increased by 4% (€404k). Of this, €164k was also from an increased FRS102 pension adjustment, with the other notable increase being the Law School’s allocation of System 360 costs.
‘Other expenditure’, noted in the accounts, are the costs associated with our subsidiaries and were €542k (2016: €631k).
The position shown by our balance sheet is significantly distorted by the FRS102 accounting standard requirements. These required three significant adjustments. The first is a positive one and increased the valuation of the Benburb Street site from €7.5m to €10m. The second is the inclusion of a provision for the deferred costs of €5m on the sale of the SMDF, which is offset by €2.8m in the SMDF Levy Fund. Our balance sheet reserves show a net increase of €2m, despite the fact that this income is earmarked to pay down the deferred cost of the SMDF sale over the next few years.
The third main adjustment is the decrease in the deficit on the staff pension scheme (closed to new entrants since 2009) from €6.2m to €5.7m. While this deficit represents 15% of the value of the liabilities, it is 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. inclusion of a provision for the deferred costs of €5m on the sale of the SMDF, which is offset by €2.8m in the SMDF Levy Fund.
Our balance sheet reserves show a net increase of €2m, despite the fact that this income is earmarked to pay down the deferred cost of the SMDF sale over the next few years.
The third main adjustment is the decrease in the deficit on the staff pension scheme (closed to new entrants since 2009) from €6.2m to €5.7m. While this deficit represents 15% of the value of the liabilities, it is 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 adjustments, our net asset position now stands at €30.5m (2016: €23.9m). However, if you factor out the SMDF and pension adjustments, our reserves are actually €38.4m. Of our reserves, €25.6m are accounted for by fixed assets. The reserves also include two contingency funds for capital expenditure (€2.1m) and litigation (€1.3m). Both funds are designed to meet costs in these areas as they arise. Additionally, €700k has been allocated to an LSRA Levy Fund in anticipation of costs in this area in 2019.As a consequence of these adjustments, our net asset position now stands at €30.5m (2016: €23.9m).
However, if you factor out the SMDF and pension adjustments, our reserves are actually €38.4m. Of our reserves, €25.6m are accounted for by fixed assets. The reserves also include two contingency funds for capital expenditure (€2.1m) and litigation (€1.3m). Both funds are designed to meet costs in these areas as they arise. Additionally, €700k has been allocated to an LSRA Levy Fund in anticipation of costs in this area in 2019.
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 (net of management fees) of €110k, made an operational surplus of €9k (2016: surplus €19k). Benburb Street Property Company Limited, which owns and manages the Benburb Street site, made an operational loss of €48k (2016: loss €8k) before allowing for the revaluation of €2.5m on the site.
Practising certificate numbers are expected to increase by 4%, approximately 400, which is the same as 2017. We expect Brexit admissions to be around 300 compared with 547 in 2017. The PPC1 student intake is very close to 450, up almost 10% on 2017.
It is likely, at best, that the LSRA will become operational in 2019. While it is almost impossible to estimate the extent of the charge that will come from the LSRA, the first levy being expected in early 2019, the Finance Committee has been prudently making provision for some of this cost and, at the end of 2018, there will be €1.4m in a fund to smooth the impact of the levy. The Society is working with the LSRA to ensure that costs are minimised in so far as is possible.
The SMDF levy will have raised just over €13m by the end of 2018, leaving a relatively small balance of approximately €500k to be raised in 2019. The run-off is proceeding according to plan and may even yield a small dividend to the Society in 2022.
System 360 (the new member management system) is proceeding apace, with Phase 1 well bedded down at this stage, and work commencing on Phase 2 (education).
A number of premises projects are also being undertaken in 2018, driven by the Society’s business needs and by health and safety, conservation and disability access requirements. All of these will add significantly to members’ and students’ enjoyment of Blackhall Place.
As always, the committee continues to work to ensure that members get value for money for all operational and capital spending, while at the same time ensuring that the Society is sufficiently resourced to service members in an effective manner into the future, and that the Law Society remains an effective professional body.
Full audited financial statements for 2017 are included in this report.
The committee met on a regular basis throughout the year in order to fulfil the Society’s obligations with regard to the mandatory statutory reporting requirements relating to the offences of money laundering, terrorist financing, and relevant offences by members of the profession and others.
The Society must 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 – that is, An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners – pursuant to the provisions of section 63 of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Acts 2010 and 2013.
During the past year, the committee directed that five such reports be made to the relevant authorities.
The Society is also required, pursuant to the provisions of section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011, to report to the gardaí, 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. During the past year, the committee directed that eight 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 the 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 website at www.lawsociety.ie/PII, which contains current and historic information and documentation on PII matters, including news items, regulations, minimum terms and conditions, the 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 PII renewal, the common proposal form, risk management, and extensive guidance regarding coverage by CBL Insurance Europe DAC for solicitors’ firms, which has found itself in difficulty in 2018. Practice notes have been issued on PII changes and the PII renewal.
The PII market remains stable, as evidenced by the fact that only one firm has availed of the Assigned Risks Pool as the insurer of last resort for the 2017/2018 indemnity period. The number of closed firms entering the Run-off Fund in the 2017/2018 indemnity has stayed low, at 24 firms. Only 18.6% of closed firms entered the 2017/2018 Run-off Fund, the lowest percentage since the commencement of the fund, which was due to 81.4% of closed firms having succeeding practices by way of takeover, merger, or new successor 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, monitoring and responding to the difficulties encountered by CBL, the introduction of minimum financial strength ratings for participating insurers, clarity on cover for cybercrime, amendments to run-off procedural rules, and the preparation of a submission to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation consultation on mandatory requirement for patent and trademark agents to have professional indemnity insurance.
I would like to thank my fellow committee members and the committee secretary for their hard work, assistance, and valuable input.
The Regulation of Practice Committee administers the 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 the Solicitors Accounts Regulations, anti-money-laundering regulations, the Solicitors Advertising Regulations, 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 €1,911,479 for the year ended 31 December 2017, compared with a surplus of €1,891,568 for the year ended 31 December 2016. The increase of €19,911 in the surplus for 2017 compared with 2016 is attributable to an increase in 2017 of €682,638 in income, a decrease of €458,496 in expenditure (as compared with 2016), a decreased adjustment of €880,958 in the fair value movements arising on revaluation of investments, together with an increase in taxation amounting to €240,265.
The increase of €682,638 in income in 2017 is attributed mainly to an increase of €418,886 in income and returns on investments, together with an increase of contributions receivable of €360,352.
The decrease of €458,496 in expenditure between the two years is attributable to a decrease in the provision for claims of €581,125.
The net assets of the fund as at 31 December 2017 stood at €21,515,288, compared with €19,603,809 at 31 December 2016. The increase of €1,911,479 in the net asset position of the fund between the two years’ end is reflected in an increase of €1,907,167 in revenue reserves, together with an increase of €4,312 in the revaluation reserve on the fund’s investments.
The audited accounts can be accessed here.
In the six months to 30 June 2018, a total of 112 claims were received. Excluding invalid claims refused, these claims amounted to €1,839,712. Payments were made in the sum of €980,687 in respect of claims, and claims amounting to €859,025 are still under consideration.
The net assets of the fund were valued at €22 million as at 30 June 2018. The annual contribution to the fund was €760 per solicitor for 2018. Insurance cover for €50 million in excess of €5 million is in place for the year ending 31 December 2018.
The committee met 17 times during the year, for ten scheduled, three emergency, and four special meetings. The committee meets in four main divisions: a claims division, an advertising regulations division, an investment subcommittee, and plenary sessions.
Arising from these meetings, the committee decided to:
The team of investigating accountants conducted approximately 375 investigations throughout the year.
The Society continues to update and maintain the dedicated cybersecurity webpage at www.lawsociety.ie/cybersecurity. This contains cyber-alerts, articles, a list of useful websites, and easy-to-understand definitions of commonly used words and phrases in cyber-technology. The webpage invites members to report cybercrime on an anonymous online form, and information received is used to enhance the guidance provided. In the year under review, 26 cyber-alerts were published. Representatives of the Society have spoken on cybersecurity at CPD seminars. The Society is committed to continuing to raise awareness of cybersecurity with its members.
The year marks a full calendar year since the introduction of the Solicitors (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Regulations 2016. As reported last year, these regulations were introduced to assist solicitors in understanding their existing AML obligations and how the Society monitors compliance with these obligations – 93% of firms investigated during the year were substantially compliant with the regulations. This represents an improving trend, which may be attributable to the profession becoming more familiar with the law in this area, particularly as a result of the new regulations and the Society’s investigation strategy.
The Society continues to robustly enforce the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002. As previously reported (Jan/Feb 2018 Gazette, p15), in November 2017 the Society secured High Court orders against a prominent ‘claims harvesting’ website, directing that the website be taken down, and that a list of all solicitors in receipt of referrals from the website be made available to the Society. Consequent on this case, 17 solicitor firms were investigated, with four solicitors being interviewed by the committee, and 14 firms providing undertakings.
The Society identified five new ‘claims harvesting’ websites emerging from the CervicalCheck controversy. Resources are being allocated to the investigation of these websites by way of secret shoppers and forensic IT expertise. The profession is reminded that the regulations apply to online social media. All solicitor firm websites and social media accounts continue to be monitored. The vetting service for proposed advertisements was highlighted (March 2018 Gazette, p16).
A practice note (October 2017 Gazette, p58) made clear that the only context in which professional fees for completing a matter may be paid from the Compensation Fund is where a claimant paid fees to a first solicitor for work that was not completed due to that solicitor’s dishonesty.
To improve its effectiveness, the committee approved protocols to
Existing and newly established firms continue to avail of the Society’s confidential Practice Advisory Service, provided through Outsource, and the committee recommends the service to assist in regulatory compliance and financial management.
I would like to thank the committee vice-chairs, the lay members, all other committee members, the committee secretary, and his team in Regulation for their highly valued participation in the work of the committee.
The main work of the ADR Committee during the year ending 30 June 2018 has been, as follows.
The Law Society hosted a seminar jointly with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators on mediation. It was well attended.
We published a new set of rules for the use of members when appointing an independent expert to decide a dispute.
We appointed new members to the ICC National Committee and to the ICC Court of Arbitration Commission. We obtained commitments from these new members to attend meetings in Europe on a regular basis and to report back to the committee.
We reviewed and amended the guidelines for membership of the panel of arbitrators.
We submitted articles on the Mediation Act and on adjudication to the Gazette for publication.
We finally achieved agreement (in conjunction with the Conveyancing Committee) with the Construction Industry Federation on the wording of the changes to the building agreement dispute resolution clauses.
We liaised with the Law Society of England and Wales regarding the effect of Brexit, particularly on arbitrators’ awards.
We made short professional videos for the website in which members of the committee explain briefly to members of the public what is involved in mediation.
We are liaising with Arbitration Ireland to consider possible reform of the law in relation to third-party funding (it is unclear whether the law on champerty and maintenance applies to arbitration).
We updated the 2015 Guide to Alternative Dispute Resolution to take account of the Mediation Act and the implementation of the Construction Contracts Act.
The Mediation Act 2017 was implemented in January 2018. We published appropriate template letters and declarations on the website to assist members in meeting their statutory obligations.
We arranged a seminar on the Mediation Act in October 2018.
We have published a three-tier dispute resolution clause for members to use in appropriate contracts.
We have actively participated in the European Working Group, which is preparing a guidance document for lawyers throughout the EU as to best practice in mediation.
I believe the above actions are consistent with the strategic objectives of the Law Society. Specifically with reference to education, the members of the committee take an active part in lecturing at the Law School and in assisting in the presentation of diploma courses. The committee is concerned that ADR, and particularly mediation, may not be given sufficient priority in the professional practice courses. This is a matter we are exploring.
The committee continues to be responsible for representing, informing, and assisting the profession on a broad range of business-law related topics and monitoring developments in business law and practice.
The committee has carried on its role of acting as a clearing house for issues/anomalies arising under the Companies Act 2014 and has made submissions to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation proposing further amendments to the act.
We are currently preparing guidance for the profession on the execution of commercial agreements via electronic means.
As part of its workload, the committee also finalised a precedent long-form constitution for a private company limited by shares. The precedent long-form constitution has been drafted so that no reliance is placed on the Companies Act’s optional provisions, all of the company’s supplemental regulations instead being set out in this constitution. In addition to the general disapplication of the act’s optional provisions by regulation 5 of the precedent constitution, throughout the constitution there are signposts for the user to the disapplication of specified sections, subsections, or paragraphs that are optional provisions.
The committee continued throughout the year to monitor developments in relation to the European Union (Anti-Money-Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2016.
We also represent the profession on the Company Law Review Group, CRO Link and the CCBE Private Law and Company Law Committees.
I would like to thank our committee’s vice-chair, Neil Keenan, and especially our secretary Joanne Cox, for their continued commitment to the work of the committee.
The past year has been yet another busy one for the Conveyancing Committee, in guiding and helping solicitors in matters of conveyancing practice and procedure.
The committee deals with practice queries from solicitors, issues practice notes to the profession, and represents solicitors’ interests in its engagement with external bodies representing various stakeholders in the conveyancing process, including representative organisations, Government departments, and other State bodies.
The committee’s telephone helpline dealt with 1,157 queries over the past year, and the committee considered 73 new queries at its monthly meetings, along with a rolling agenda of between 35 and 40 ongoing topics.
The main issues for practitioners during the year included:
This year, the committee finalised and published new certificates of compliance with planning and building regulations, revised completion notices for vendors and purchasers, and a memorandum for clients on surveys (all of these are available at www.lawsociety.ie/precedents).
The committee published 29 practice notes and articles in the Gazette and eZine (all available at www.lawsociety.ie/practicenotes) on matters as diverse as registration of rights of way, issues with lenders under the certificate of title system, NPPR, water charges, omnibus letters, online auctions and deposits, LPT, and clauses in receiver contracts.
The committee’s ongoing projects and activities for the coming year include:
My thanks are due to all committee members and consultants, vice-chair Orla Coyne, and our indispensable secretary Catherine O’Flaherty for their time, hard work and support throughout the year.
During another busy year for the committee, our significant projects and achievements have included:
At the request of Judge Smyth, chair of the Department of Justice and Equality’s Advisory Committee on the Garda Interviewing of Suspects, the Criminal Law Committee, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, held a roundtable seminar on 22 June 2018 in Garda Headquarters. This was a key opportunity to contribute the perspectives of solicitors about their role in garda station interviews and identify friction points that arise in practice, as well as potential solutions. A broad range of topics was discussed, including facilities, selection of solicitors/choice of solicitor, disclosure, note-taking and delays.
As chair of the Family and Child Law Committee, it is my good fortune to be blessed with an exceptional membership. In addition to every member of the committee, I would like to pay particular thanks to Helen Coughlan (vice-chair), secretary Jane Moffatt, and Dr Geoffrey Shannon, all of whom have made and continue to make extraordinary contributions to the committee.
Over the past two years, the committee has engaged in a number of significant projects, including:
The committee also has a significant number of ongoing projects in hand, which include a revision of the 2013 submission ‘Family law – the future’; making submissions on the new family law heads of bill in relation to restructuring of the family law courts, which is likely to be published in the next three months; and reporting on the reform of divorce, a special project led by Dr Geoffrey Shannon and Dr Carol Coulter.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank recent presidents Stuart Gilhooly and Michael Quinlan, as well as Ken Murphy, Mary Keane, Cormac Ó Culáin, Mark McDermott, Attracta O’Regan, Michelle Nolan, Rachael Hession and many others in Blackhall Place for progressing all issues raised by the Family and Child Law Committee and for their support. It is appreciated.
This past year has been a busy and engaging one for the Employment and Equality Law Committee. The committee has actively engaged with the relatively recently established Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to ensure that the concerns of practitioners about the procedures of the WRC are addressed. Committee representatives, together with other stakeholder organisations, met with the WRC’s executive officers to explain these concerns. These engagements have assisted the WRC in devising a number of amendments to its procedures, and the committee has communicated these amendments to the profession through eZine articles. We continue to have concerns about some aspects of WRC procedures, and we will continue to make representations to the WRC to address these concerns.
The year has also seen a number of significant legislative developments, with committee members actively monitoring the progress of the draft legislation with a view to making submissions to Government if appropriate. Subcommittees have been established to review the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (Gender Pay Gap Information) Bill 2017. In July 2018, a subcommittee of members prepared a response to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s call for consultation on its draft Code on Equal Pay. The committee has coordinated its activities with other Law Society committees (notably the Human Rights Committee) to help maximise the effectiveness of the Society’s policy work.
Members completed a full review of the employment and equality law precedents available to the profession on the Society’s website, 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 CPD courses.
Many thanks to the committee members, vice-chair Catherine O’Flynn, and acting secretary Rory O’Boyle.
The purpose of the EU and International Affairs Committee is to monitor and report on developments in the EU and internationally.
The committee maintains representation on the Council of Bars and Law Societies in Europe (CCBE), International Bar Association, American Bar Association, UINL (Union Internationale du Notariat Latin) and the German-Irish Lawyers and Business Association (GILBA). These relationships allow the Law Society to represent the solicitors’ profession at an international level and to influence policy debate on legal services and regulation matters.
There was continued focus on Brexit this year. The committee hosted a roundtable event in April 2018 with representatives of bars and law societies from other European countries in attendance, with Brexit as one of the key topics. Committee members have been to the fore in raising Brexit issues with the CCBE.
We hosted a number of foreign delegations, including representatives from the Chinese Law Society in November 2017, and a Ukrainian delegation of Supreme Court judges and representatives of the National School of Judges in April 2018.
The committee has continued to provide updates and education on EU and international matters for the membership of the Law Society. Committee members submitted articles for publication in the Gazette on a range of issues, including on recent case law from the CJEU. On 2 November 2017, we arranged a talk focusing on the legal response to cyber-attacks. The committee facilitated a Council of Europe Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals (HELP) course on business and human rights in February 2018. The course was run by committee secretary Eva Massa. The committee facilitated and sponsored the placement of an Irish student in Paris for the Stage International in late 2017. This placement offers a great opportunity to a solicitor to spend time working and learning in Paris.
I wish to thank all of the committee members for their ongoing commitment and hard work, and committee secretary Eva Massa, who is the lynchpin for the success of our programmes and events.
The objective of the Society’s Law School is to enable solicitors to provide excellent legal services to the public. The Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) contributes to that objective. We consult with the teams running the professional practice, continuing legal education, diploma and certificate courses. We review the curricula and materials furnished to students of the Law School to ensure that the courses offered at every level are cutting edge.
The CDU suggests improvements for existing courses and topics for new courses, for discussion and, if considered appropriate, adoption by the Law School through the Education Committee.
This year, we reviewed the PPC I and the diploma courses, and we looked at continuing developments in the use of social media platforms and provision of education by digital communication in relation to Law School students and the profession generally.
We continued to monitor the proposed sea change in the training of solicitors in England and Wales where, from 2020, there will be two centralised Solicitor Qualifying Examinations akin to the FE1 and PPC, but without a course provision, along with an intervening two-year period in a firm and a final ethics and suitability test.
We also reviewed the report of the Future of Solicitor Education Review Group and the substantial changes proposed by that group, which have been approved by the Council and submitted to the LSRA.
In October, the CDU plans to visit Maastricht University to review the courses provided by the law school there to trainee lawyers and compare them with ours, so that we can be of assistance to the Society’s Law School in the implementation of its plans in future.
Thanks to each CDU member, from a multiplicity of areas of practice throughout the island of Ireland, for contributing their views on the issues we consider, to Dr Geoffrey Shannon (deputy director of education) for his unfailing support as our secretary, and to all the dedicated and enthusiastic managers and tutors of the professional practice, CPD and diploma courses.
In a fast-moving media environment, this year marked a major turning point for the Law Society Gazette with the launch of Gazette.ie – the daily legal news service aimed at legal practitioners and the general public.
Gazette.ie is proving popular with commuters, thanks to daily news updates and its breaking news service. Analysis articles are reserved for more leisurely occasions. The site features unique video news clips, with ‘oneon- one’ interviews with conference keynote speakers, legislators, legal experts and practitioners – setting the Gazette apart in the legal news arena.
These developments are ensuring that the Law Society Gazette, in all its guises and through its social media channels, remains the preferred legal news channel for members of the profession.
The Gazette magazine was one of the big winners at the Irish Magazine Awards in November 2017, securing the ‘Designer of the Year’ and ‘Cover of the Year’ titles in the business magazines category. In an effort to preserve pole position, certain sections of the magazine were reorganised and redesigned to make content yet more accessible and relevant to readers.
The magazine continues to grow its readership figures due to an increase in the number of practitioners on the Roll – and the influx of British solicitors applying for membership in Ireland.
A total of 33,296 visitors clicked on the Gazette website in 2017 (of which 17,621 consisted of unique views). All the indicators are that this record will be broken in 2018, chiefly due to the introduction of the Gazette.ie daily news service.
I am extremely grateful to my editorial board colleagues for their commitment and valuable contributions throughout the year – and for their unstinting support for these exciting initiatives. The Gazette team deserves full credit for its constant drive to achieve publishing excellence and its untiring desire to innovate.
It has been my great pleasure to act as chairperson to the Guidance and Ethics Committee this past year.
At the start of the year, we were tasked with carrying out a review of several guidance documents that are available to practitioners via the Law Society website relating to:
We also considered the impact of GDPR during this review.
I am delighted to confirm that the review is almost complete, and the full suite of revised guidance documents will shortly be available for all practitioners.
A review and update of the Guide to Good Professional Conduct for Solicitors will be undertaken in 2019.
Our ‘Ten Steps Project’ continued during the year, with regular articles appearing in the Gazette on a wide range of topics.
The committee continues to support the excellent work of the Panel to Assist Solicitors. We had a very successful seminar for volunteer panel members in November 2017. Another such event is planned for November 2018.
This year saw the continuance of the ever-popular bar association visits, where committee members can meet colleagues to give information and updates from the work of the committee.
We continue to monitor the progress of the Legal Services Regulation Authority. As chairperson, I sit on the LSRA Task Force and have provided updates regarding the LSRA as and when required.
We are preparing guidance for solicitors on having transition-year students in their offices. We are currently carrying out a review of the issues that arise.
We have had a busy agenda, and all committee members have shown the utmost commitment and enthusiasm for the various matters undertaken.
Finally, I would like to thank our committee secretary, Linda Kirwan, and also Pamela Connolly, who have given endless hours of assistance to the committee.
The Human Rights Committee this year continued with its programme of activities, promoting the law and practice of human rights, both among the profession and members of the public.
Through this committee, via committee member Alma Clissmann, the Law Society maintains representation at the Access to Justice Committee and the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).
On 12 October 2017, the 15th annual Human Rights Conference addressed the topic ‘Inside out: the human rights implications of imprisonment’.
The committee prepared a number of submissions, including one on Ireland’s Combined Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Periodic Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and a comprehensive and detailed second submission on the Parole Bill 2016. The committee also contributed to the Law Society’s response to the Law Reform Commission’s request for proposals for its Fifth Programme of Law Reform, as well as its recommendations for policing reform.
In May 2018, the committee held the 15th Annual Human Rights Lecture with Prof Fiona de Londras, entitled ‘The impact of Brexit on human rights,’ with Minister Katherine Zappone as a distinguished guest.
We also participated in a roundtable discussion with rapporteurs from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.
We continue to contribute to education, offering advice and guidance on relevant course content, and as regular contributors to PPC and diploma courses.
Currently, the committee is busy preparing and planning for the 16th annual Human Rights Conference, which takes place in October 2018 at Blackhall Place. The committee contributes regularly to the Gazette and the Law Society website. Gazette articles included:
My thanks go to vice-chair Hilkka Becker and all committee members for giving so generously of their time, interest and expertise. In particular, my sincere thanks go to Michelle Lynch for her hard work and assistance as secretary to the committee.
On 9 November 2017, the committee held its annual conference, entitled ‘Beyond the law – adding value as an in-house solicitor’ (see December 2017 Gazette, p26).
The committee continued to liaise with the Gazette to ensure content relevant to in-house solicitors was included. For instance, an article in the November 2017 (p14) issue discussed ‘Why in-house solicitors need a practising certificate’.
On 17 January 2018, Student Development Services held a careers seminar. A number of committee members gave presentations.
On 24 May 2018, the committee held a panel discussion, ‘The in-house solicitor – dealing with change and upheaval’ (see July 2018 Gazette, p28). It will be held again, in Limerick, on 26 September.
The committee supported the Diploma Team with the design of the Certificate in Strategic Development for In-house Practice and the Diploma in In-house Practice.
The monthly in-house update continued to be published on the Society’s website and in the members’ eZine.
The committee produced the fifth edition of A Guide for In-house Solicitors Employed in the Corporate and Public Sectors. It 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. The committee continued to provide guidance on a variety of ad hoc queries.
Our 2018 annual conference will take place on 8 November and continues with the committee’s theme for the year of dealing with change and upheaval.
I continued to represent the Society at general assemblies of the European Company Lawyers’ Association.
Patrick Ambrose, committee member, was appointed as the Society’s representative on the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe Working Group on the European Convention on the Profession of Lawyer (see July 2018 Gazette, p46).
I would like to thank all committee members for their contribution this year, with special thanks to vice-chair Anna-Marie Curry and secretary Louise Campbell.
The committee held a number of meetings throughout the year with a range of public stakeholders. In addition, we also met the American Chamber of Commerce to discuss the concerns of industry and the US Chamber’s Global Innovation Policy Centre members to learn more about the International IP Index 2018 – and Ireland’s excellent ranking in terms of its regulation and legal protection of intellectual property (IP) rights when benchmarked internationally.
As 2018 marked the introduction of the GDPR into law, the committee members took part in numerous preparatory talks and presentations at various meetings of local bar associations throughout the country.
In February 2018, the GDPR Working Group was established for a year’s duration to assist practitioners in their preparation for the regulation. The group released a set of documents and precedents, consisting of a general introductory note, ‘GDPR 12 Steps’, a data map, record of activities, and privacy notices. These were followed by subject access request guidance and data processing service agreements. The GDPR Working Group also agreed a data protocol with the Bar Council.
Two of the highlights during the year were the e-learning complementary course created by the committee entitled ‘GDPR – an introduction: a practical guide for legal practitioners’. To date, 1,311 people have accessed this resource, and two external professional bodies have sought access.
Second, we marked International Data Protection Day by hosting a seminar entitled ‘Litigation in the data age’. Speakers included Chief Justice Frank Clarke, Helen Dixon (data protection commissioner), and Cian Ferriter SC.
We also flagged issues of concern to the profession within the Law Society, including raising with the Council the fact that the practice note on cybersecurity (dated 2015) indicates that only limited insurance cover (loss of client moneys from cybercrime) is available to solicitors under normal terms of professional indemnity insurance (PII) and that top-up cover is required for solicitor’s own practices. We queried why more comprehensive insurance was not in place for solicitors as part of the normal terms of PII without resort to top-up cover.
As well as all of this, we assisted colleagues throughout the year with a range of queries in both IP law and data protection law.
The last year has been a very exciting and busy year for the Litigation Committee, with great contributions from all members. Below is a brief synopsis of matters we dealt with over the last 12 months.
In preparation for the new costs adjudication regime under the LSRA, a subcommittee was formed to provide input. The subcommittee consulted with the Law Society’s legal costs working group and made a detailed submission to the Superior Court Rules Committee.
A review of District Court scale costs was instigated by the Courts Service. A subcommittee was formed. Work on a submission is ongoing.
Observations were made to the Superior Courts Rules Committee on draft rules on periodic payments arising out of new provisions contained in the Civil Liability (Amendment) Act 2017.
In response to an invitation from the joint Oireachtas committee, the committee provided observations on a private member’s Multi-Party Actions Bill.
Last year, I reported that the Litigation Committee recognised that Brexit might present some opportunities for Ireland in the areas of litigation, arbitration, and mediation services. During the year, a subcommittee met on many occasions to consider the issues we might be faced with. A detailed submission on opportunities to increase the market for international legal services was made to the minister.
The Mediation Act 2017 was commenced on 1 January 2018. A template for a mediation letter in litigation matters and a draft section 14 declaration were prepared for the benefit of members of the Society.
Issues with GDPR compliance have been on the committee’s radar, and it is working with the Law Society’s task force in the development of various protocols and template agreements for use in the context of litigation.
A comprehensive and informative précis has been prepared by two members of the committee. It is proposed that a full report will be compiled setting out issues and difficulties identified with the scheme and practice in this area.
The civil justice system that has been in operation for in excess of 100 years is being reviewed by a committee headed by the President of the High Court. Our committee made a detailed submission to Mr Justice Peter Kelly’s review group. Our submission identifies key reforms that, if implemented, could help to reform and improve the system both for practitioners and users.
A meeting took place in the Law Society with representatives from the Irish Medical Organisation. We were able to identify matters that have been a cause of concern between the respective groups.
The committee continues to engage with the PIAB Users’ Group on an ongoing basis.
Members of the various rules committees kept our committee up to date on rule changes. In tandem with this, the committee kept the profession informed on developments in this area through the eZine and the Gazette.
Our annual seminar took place on 4 October 2018.
As in previous years, this topic has remained on our agenda. I am happy to report that a new wording has been agreed by the committee, which is in discussion with the VHI. I am hopeful that an acceptable solution will be reached.
As I finish my two years as chair, I would like to say a sincere thank you to all the committee members – some of whom travelled long distances to get to the meetings – for all their hard work and good humour. To our vice-chair, Liam Kennedy, a genuine thank you for the help and support over the last two years. I would also like to thank Cormac Ó Culáin, who worked with and guided us in the preparation of some of the submissions made by the committee. Finally, a very special thanks to our super-efficient secretary, Colette Reid, for her patience, dedication and hard work, without which the committee would not have been able to function as well as it did.
The committee continued to protect the right of clients in nursing homes to have free access to their solicitor without third-party interference. In addition to other activities, this primarily took the form of ensuring that draft Law Society submissions did not in any way undermine this essential human right. This matter is ongoing.
The committee engaged with the Department of Justice and Equality in relation to the proposed Civil Law (Costs in Probate Matters) Bill 2017 and suggested amendments to it in line with recent court rulings.
The committee also engaged with the Probate Office on a number of matters, but particularly in relation to the delays reported by members. Happily, these have finally been reduced, due in part to increased staffing in the Probate Office, new systems being introduced, and greater flexibility. The committee continues to monitor the situation and awaits the recommendations of the Probate Services Review Group report being implemented.
The committee continued its work in relation to 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 continued to engage with the relevant departments in relation to the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which has been signed into law but not yet enacted, and primarily in relation to a proposed part 13 to the act.
Committee members actively engaged with the Revenue Commissioners directly in relation to the changes to dwellinghouse exemption and at the TALC Direct/Capital Taxes Subcommittee in relation to trusts for individuals incapable of managing their affairs. The committee also contributed to the Law Society’s budget submission. The committee raised issues in relation to the availability of relevant practice notes on the amended Revenue website.
The committee engaged with both the Regulation and the Representation and Member Services Departments in the production of new one-page client-care leaflets Making a Will, Administering an Estate, and Capital Acquisitions Tax, which were published this year. We are continuing to liaise with both departments in relation to drafting a similar leaflet for enduring powers of attorney.
In addition, the committee continues to:
Articles published by the committee and its members include:
In conjunction with our colleagues on the Taxation Committee, the committee held the second Probate and Taxation Annual Conference on 26 October 2017, which was well attended and positively received.
In addition, committee members continue to speak at a number of Law Society and other seminars throughout the country, too numerous to mention, including CPD ‘cluster’ events and the Probate and Taxation Masterclass.
Challenges to be taken on in 2018/2019 include exploring the possibility of solicitors availing of the dormant accounts legislation for relatively small sums languishing in client accounts; continuing to lobby for an increase in Probate Office staff, 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 solicitors have access to the relevant information they need to provide to their clients.
My thanks to committee secretary Padraic Courtney and all the committee members for their hard work over the year.
The committee continues to host the annual Justice Media Awards, while the annual Communications Day took place on 26 September 2018. The latter event provides media skills training to members to enable and encourage solicitors to build relationships with their local media outlets, promoting the solicitors’ profession and driving business to their firms.
The Justice Media Awards are Ireland’s longest continuously running media awards. In June, around 120 of the nation’s leading journalists gathered for a ceremony in Blackhall Place, with 36 awards and merits handed out. There was a record-breaking number of 236 entries.
As President Michael Quinlan said: “The Justice Media Awards are the pride of the Law Society. We believe it is more important than ever to recognise and reward excellence in legal journalism.”
The overall award went to RTÉ Investigates for a programme titled ‘Law and disorder’ by Paul Murphy and Doireann O’Hara. It examined the workings and shortcomings of the District Court system.
We continue to work closely with the Representation and Member Services Department, and with its director Teri Kelly, an important committee member. As previously set out, this means that the PR Committee has taken on a more strategic, rather than functional, role. This includes providing key practitioner feedback on the Society’s major public relations projects, such as the new radio and digital advertising campaign planned to launch later this year.
The Taxation Committee has had another busy year representing the Society and its members in interaction with the Revenue Commissioners and other tax advisors through continued active participation in the Tax Administration Liaison Committee (TALC) and its relevant subcommittees dealing with direct taxes, indirect taxes, capital taxes, audit, technical tax issues, collection tax issues, base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) and the Companies Act working group. The committee made numerous submissions to Revenue, both via the TALC forum and directly to Revenue in respect of issues concerning practitioners. It also continued to liaise with the Revenue Commissioners in relation to e-stamping, Local Property Tax, the new Revenue website and other practical issues. Changes to Revenue practice and procedures are regularly communicated to practitioners.
The committee is also represented on the CCBE Taxation Group.
As usual, the committee also prepared a detailed pre-budget submission that was submitted to the Minister for Finance and other relevant Government departments. This year the submission dealt with issues regarding the introduction of legislation and the Finance Bill, and outlined recommendations with regard to looking after those in need, keeping Ireland competitive, and growing ‘Ireland Inc’. It also focused on administrative and technical issues that need to be dealt with in order to ensure the tax code keeps pace with ongoing changes. The committee was of the view that it was important to get the message of these changes and issues into the public domain, and worked closely with the Law Society’s PR section to get media coverage of these issues, which are of real concern to the profession and our clients.
The committee also reviewed, to the extent appropriate, and commented on the provisions of the Finance Act 2018 as it passed through the legislative process, and summarised its relevant consequences in the annual Tax Guide, published and distributed to members.
We continued to issue practice notes and respond to queries raised by members throughout the year.
I have been very ably assisted in my role by committee secretary Dr Rachael Hession, and I thank her for her support and assistance throughout the year.
The Technology Committee continues to represent solicitors and the Society in its interactions with the Courts Service, Revenue Commissioners, Property Registration Authority, other Government bodies, and the Government Chief Information Officer. Committee members attend regular meetings with Revenue on electronic stamping and the PRAI. The committee also continues to monitor the use of technology in the profession and to advise best practice to members through guidance notes in the Gazette and eZine.
This year, the committee submitted a proposal for an IT module to be included as part of the PPC, with the intention of assisting the level of digital literacy among trainee solicitors; updated the Retention or Destruction of Files document published in 2005 (this was a joint publication by the Technology and the Guidance and Ethics Committees, and is currently being reviewed by the latter committee); and brought any email scams to the attention of the Regulation Department to ensure that the profession was made aware of these in a quick and timely manner.
The committee is also keeping a watching brief on the use of artificial intelligence by the legal profession and, following attendance at the Society of Computers and Law annual conference in London, a discussion document was drafted. It would be the view at this stage that it would be of great benefit for discovery, but would require much work for it to be used.
As well as this, we are preparing a discussion document on secure email communications and would propose that the Society recommend a consistent approach to e-government secure communications systems to the government and all agencies.
We have reviewed the new gov.ie portal template and have submitted the committee’s observations on its deficiencies. These have been brought to the profession’s attention via a recent eZine. The committee also continues to contribute to cluster events.
I wish to thank my vice-chair, Brian Horkan, for his support and valued input, our hard-working committee members, who ensure that we achieve our goals, and our diligent secretary Veronica Donnelly.
The Younger Members Committee represents members of our profession who are in their first seven years of legal practice (regardless of age). We aim to promote the development of the professional skills of younger members and provide advocacy for their interests and concerns.
In October 2017, we hosted a conference entitled ‘The smart client – mastering the solicitor/client relationship in a new era’. The speakers provided guidance on topics such as managing and meeting the expectations of clients, the use of marketing and technology in servicing clients, and examining the 24/7 ‘always-on’ culture in which solicitors are expected to stay in a permanent state of alert.
In November 2017, we published a Guide to Flexible Working. The aim of the guide is to support solicitors and firms to develop flexible work practices. We also published an article in the November 2017 issue of the Gazette (p26) introducing the guide and providing more information on this subject.
In October 2018, we hosted a conference entitled ‘The inclusive lawyer – diversity and inclusion’. The conference focused on the need for solicitors to be conscious of diversity and inclusion as they enter leadership roles within their firms and in their interactions with clients.
The event covered topics such as gender parity in the legal profession and LGBT inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.
I wish to thank our secretary, Judith Tedders, for her invaluable assistance, and Rachael Hession and Michelle Nolan of Law Society Professional Training for their support in hosting our conferences. I extend my sincere thanks to our vice-chair, Jennifer Dorgan, for her diligence and commitment throughout the past year. Finally, my gratitude goes to our committee members for their invaluable contribution to the work of the committee.
Chair: Paul Egan
Vice-Chairs: William Aylmer
Chair: Dan Murphy
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Chair: Michael Quinlan
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Mary Keane
Chair: Brendan Twomey
Vice-Chair: Keith Walsh
Michelle Ní Longáin
Michael V O’Mahony
Secretary: Paula Sheedy
Chair: Eamon Harrington
Vice-Chair: Chris Callan
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Cillian MacDomhnaill
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Ken Murphy
Chair: Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Deirdre Byrne
Chair: Chris Callan
Secretary: Tina Beattie
Chair: Richard Hammond
Vice-Chair: Barry MacCarthy
Lay Member: Jim O’Mahoney
Secretary: Sorcha Hayes
Chair: Martin Crotty
Vice-Chairs: Maura Derivan
John G O’Malley
Secretary: John Elliot
Chair: Anthony Hussey
Vice-Chair: William Aylmer
Secretary: John Lunney
Chair: Joy Compton
Vice-Chair: Neil Keenan
Consultant: Patricia McGovern
Secretary: Joanne Cox
Chair: Patrick Sweetman
Vice-Chair: Orla Coyne
Joyce Good Hammond
Secretary: Catherine O’Flaherty
Chair: Darach McCarthy
Vice-Chair: Robert Purcell
Consultant: Michael Staines
Secretary: Emma-Jane Williams
Chair: Carol Plunkett
Vice-Chair: Jill Callanan
Secretary: Geoffrey Shannon
Chair: Joanne Hyde
Vice-Chair: Loughlin Deegan
Secretary: Deirdre Flynn
Chair: Stephen Gillick
Chair: Martin Cooney
Vice-Chair: Diane Balding
John D Shaw
Secretary: Eva Massa
(with responsibility also for civil legal aid)
Chair: Keith Walsh
Vice-Chair: Helen Coughlan
Carol Anne Coolican
Consultant: Rosemary Horgan, Joan O'Mahony
Secretary: Jane Moffatt
Chair: Michael Kealey
Patrick J McGonagle
Secretary: Mark McDermott
(with responsibility also for guidance on practice management)
Chair: Valerie Peart
Vice-Chair: Justine Carty
John G Harte
Consultant: Brendan Dillon
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Chair: Shane McCarthy
Vice-Chair: Hilkka Becker
Consultants: Noeline Blackwell, Michael Farrell
Secretary: Michelle Lynch
Chair: Mark Cockerill
Vice-Chair: Anna-Marie Curry
Secretary: Louise Campbell
Chair: Ann Henry
Vice-Chair: Fiona O’Beirne
Consultant: Tara MacMahon
Secretary: Katherine Kane
Chair: Carol Plunkett
Vice-Chair: Brendan Twomey
Secretary: Michelle Nolan
Chair: Fiona Duffy
Vice-Chair: Liam Kennedy
Sonya Morrissy Murphy
Consultants: Joseph Deane, Stuart Gilhooly
Secretary: Colette Reid
Chair: Georgina Drum
Vice-Chair: Pat Bradley
Secretary: Padraic Courtney
Chair: Michael Kealey
Vice-chair: Sonia McEntee
Secretary: Kathy McKenna
Chair: Gavin McGuire
Vice-Chair: Ruth Higgins
Consultant: Brian Bohan
Secretary: Rachael Hession
Chair: Joe Kane
Vice-Chair: Brian Horkan
Secretary: Veronica Donnelly
Chair: Emer O’Connor
Vice-Chair: Jennifer Dorgan
Michael P Quinlan
Observer: current auditor of SADSI
Secretary: Judith Tedders
Chair: James MacGuill
Members: Brian Bohan
Secretary: Emma-Jane Williams
Chair: Patrick Dorgan
Secretary: Liam Barrett
Chair: Eamonn Keenan
Vice-Chair: Neil Butler
Secretary: Liam Barrett
Co-Chairs: Peter Bolger and Gabriel Brennan
Secretary: Martina Ward-Clancy
Chair: Mr Justice Michael Peart
Vice-chair: Carol Plunkett
Secretary: Geoffrey Shannon, Gabriel Brennan (alternate)
Chair: Paul Keane
Secretary: Simon Treanor
Chair: Patricia Rickard-Clarke
Secretary: Cian Monaghan
Chair: Valerie Peart
Michelle Ní Longáin
Secretary: Attracta O’Regan
Chair: Keith Walsh
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Co-Chair: Ken Murphy
Co-Chair: Patrick Dorgan
Co-Chair: Suzanne Bainton
Secretary: Catherine O’Flaherty
Co-Chair: Paul Keane
Co-Chair: John Elliot
Secretary: Linda Kirwan
Cormac Ó Culáin
Anti-Money Laundering – Mary Keane
Access to Justice – Alma Clissmann
Company Law – Justin McKenna
Competition – Ken Murphy
Criminal Law (chairman) – James MacGuill
Deontology – Valerie Peart
European Convention on the Profession of Lawyer – Patrick Ambrose
European Private Law – Paul Keane
Family Law – Keith Walsh
Free Movement of Lawyers – TP Kennedy
Future of the Legal Profession – James MacGuill
Human Rights Law – Alma Clissmann
IT Law – Greg Ryan
PII – Richard Hammond
Succession Law – Tom Martyn
Surveillance – James MacGuill
Tax – John Cuddigan, Olivia Long, James MacGuill
Training – TP Kennedy
CCBE Information Officer: Eva Massa
Patrick J McGonagle
Consultative Working Group on the Rules re Family Law
James McCourt (three-year term, until November 2020)
Civil Litigation: David Martin
Court of Appeal – Civil: Liam Kennedy, John P Shaw
Court of Appeal – Criminal: Shalom Binchy, Dara Robinson
Dublin Circuit Civil: Aine Hynes (alternate
Examiners and Official Assignee’s Offices:
Family Law (Circuit and High Courts): Justin Spain
Family Law (District Court): Carol Anne Coolican
Wards of Court: Justin McKenna
Criminal Courts of Justice: Emer O’Sullivan
Blanchardstown District Court: Margaret McEvilly
Dun Laoghaire District Court: Ronnie Lynam
The president (for the time being)
Dublin North East: Paula Fallon
Dublin Mid Leinster: Justin McKenna
Southern: John Jermyn
Western: Tom Martyn
National Inspection Plan: Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems
Carol Anne Coolican
John D Shaw (three-year term, until November 2019)
ICC National Committee
ICC Commission on Arbitration
ICC Commission on Intellectual Property
Cormac Ó Culáin
Máiréad Ní Ghabháin
John D Shaw
Simon Murphy (alternate)
John D Shaw
Valerie Peart (three-year term, until November 2019)
Frances Twomey (alternate)
Conor O Briain
Carol Ann Woulfe
Riobard Pierse (subgroup for District and Circuit Court)
Companies Act workgroup
Direct Taxes Technical/CAT Subcommittee
Indirect Taxes Subcommittee
R&D Tax Credit Steering Committee
Simon Murphy (chair, four-year term, until
Justin McKenna (alternate)
Chair: Laurence K Shields
Adrian P Bourke
James Mc Court
John D Shaw
For the year ended 31 December 2017
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 year ended 31 December 2017.
For the year ended 31 December 2017
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 year ended 31 December 2017.
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.