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category dublin | crime and justice | opinion/analysis author Tuesday November 27, 2007 22:09author by Domhain Sceadaman - The Plain People of Ireland Report this post to the editors

Who can be trusted - Iawyers-security companies?

Tonight’s prime time revealed that solicitors have been acting for more than one party in property transactions, with the knowledge of the professional body, the Law Society.

I have appended the speeech given by the new law society president James MacGuill on 9th November 2007

If you watched the programme you will find this speech interesting

Parchment Ceremony Speech of James MacGuill, 9th November 2007

President of the High Court ..................................

Ladies and Gentlemen and, most importantly, our new colleagues.

At the outset I would ask for your forgiveness for any errors on my part, but it is my first day on the job as well.

Today marks the successful completion of years of dedicated study and training following which you have earned the right to have your name inscribed on the Roll of Solicitors.
As a solicitor you have a right of audience in every court in the land and the right to carry out many forms of transactional work reserved exclusively to solicitors. With that power comes responsibility. This is something I wish to talk to you about today. An independent legal profession is an essential component of democracy. Lawyers, who are independent of government, commercial interests and the media, provide an indispensible safeguard of fundamental freedoms. It is for this very reason that the legal profession or its independence are the first targets of totalitarianism. If there could be any doubting that proposition, we only need to look at the events in Pakistan this very week.

Some commentators present the independence of the legal profession as a privilege for lawyers. That is unfortunately to completely miss the point. An independent legal profession is the right of citizens. It is your duty to represent your individual clients ethically, to the best of your ability and without fear or favour. It is a singular honour to be called upon to represent a fellow citizen at any time but particularly when the client is under great personal stress. This could be on the occasion of buying a house, perhaps the single biggest investment of a life-time, preparing for the distribution of their Estate after their death, being guided through the process of family breakup or when bringing or defending proceedings before the courts, whether civil or criminal.
In these situations, a client is entitled to the effective assistance of a solicitor, and in certain cases where their means do not permit, to have that assistance provided at public expense.

What are they entitled to expect?

The 3 core principles are that we act:

1. Independently

2. Confidentially

3. With integrity avoiding conflict of interest.

Truly independent advice is objective advice based on the known facts and your understanding of the law. It should not be, and rarely is, simply what the client wants to hear. It must never be subject to improper outside influence.

Confidentiality
A bedrock of the lawyer/client relationship is the knowledge that a lawyer will keep the instructions received confidential to himself and never disclose them to third parties, even close friends and family. Every one of you at some stage in your professional life will become privy to secrets that would be considered sensational in the public domain but you must never disclose them. This confidentiality, or “privilege”, is the right of the client, not that of the lawyer, and can only be waived with the client’s express authority.
A word of caution, however, is that in transactional as opposed to litigation work, there are now restrictions on the professional secret as a result of EU anti-money laundering legislation and the Society will continue to monitor on your behalf the extent to which these inroads undermine the lawyer/client relationship.

Integrity speaks for itself and requires not only the highest ethical conduct on your part, but also a very visible demonstration that this is so.

One of the particular challenges is to avoid acting where there is a conflict of interest. If at any time there is a conflict between your interests and that of your client you must cease to act for the client forthwith. If a conflict arises between two clients, either directly or indirectly, you cannot act further for either client in that transaction.

Our daily challenge as solicitors is to abide by these core principles whatever is at stake, and whatever the personal consequences for ourselves.

In deference to the presence today of our good friend Professor Lonnie Rose from the United States, I might cite one example of a lawyer who put his professional ethics ahead of what was either popular or profitable at the time.

John Quincy Adams was an American patriot who emphatically opposed the British crown. Still, his sense of justice led him to defend 4 British soldiers who were accused of shooting into an angry mob of American rioters during the Boston massacre.

While defending themselves against the mob, the soldiers killed 4 Americans. Adams managed to get 2 of them acquitted: the other 2 were convicted of manslaughter. Adams feared his actions would cost him popularity – he had initially received threats and been met with public disapproval – but that didn’t happen. Justice prevailed. In 1770 the people of Boston chose him as one of their representatives in the colonial legislature and he was eventually elected as the United States second president.

At the centre of any solicitor/client relationship is the issue of human dignity, and black letter law can never replace that. Before I qualified I trained with my late father. In an incident which I am sure you, and certainly your parents, will recognise we were at court together and he was defending a visual identification case. I tortured him as to why he was not quoting leading High Court and Supreme Court authorities to the Judge. Eventually, even for this most patient of men, the rebuke arrived. He told me that when he was at my stage he knew a lot about law but not so much about people, but now he knew a lot about people and somewhat less about law. He won the case and I learned a series of valuable lessons on that day which I commend to you.

When he qualified in 1953, it might reasonably have been said that that was the end of his formal legal education. As you know, times have changed and the Society is committed to promoting a policy of life-long learning which encourages colleagues to continue to hone and refine their skills. At this morning’s Council meeting we have resolved to increase the required level of CPD to 15 hours per year. Even those who were initially sceptical about the scheme are now enthusiastic about the opportunity it presents them to approach their work in a more refreshed fashion.

With each generation new challenges face the profession. In the 1950s, it would have been unthinkable that a substantial number of colleagues would work essentially full-time in the field of family law. Perhaps because the trends were not foreseen, family law cases fell to be dealt with in the traditional court adversarial system. In a very important report published by Dr. Carol Coulter last week she questions whether it is now time for change. The Society are happy to engage constructively in any discussions that would improve the service available to people in the difficult personal circumstances of a family breakup. In particular, we endorse the concept of collaborative justice where solicitors work together to achieve what is in the best interests of the family in crisis.

Again it would have been unforeseen, even when I qualified in 1986, that such a substantial number of our clients would be from countries of origin other than Ireland. We must rise to the challenge of ensuring equal access to justice for all, especially the migrant community. As Irish people we above all should understand the hardships that both cause emigration and are caused by it.

Ach ag an am gcéanna ná déanaigí dearmad ar an chultúir agus ar an teanga Gaelach. Tá sé i gceist ag an Chumann Dlí tacaíocht praicticiúil a chur ar fáil do dhlíodóirí gur mian leo gnó a dhéanamh trí Ghaeilge.
Tuigimid go bhfuil fonn ar bhreis daoine an teanga a chur chun cinn ina saolta fhéin, agus ba mhian linn úsáid na teanga a mholadh agus cabhrú leis.
Beidh fáilte romhaibh go léir cuidiú leis an obair seo. Taraigí ar cheann de na cúrsaí atáimid ag cur ar fáil an bhliain seo chugainn. Tá Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla ann – bainigí úsáid as!

While this is not an occasion for making policy statements on matters of controversy, I feel it would be unreal in an address to new colleagues to ignore completely the events of recent weeks.

This is a difficult time for the solicitors’ profession for reasons of which everyone here is well aware. Recent events have encouraged attacks from many quarters. Very hostile and unfair criticism of the profession as a whole and of the Law Society in particular, have been the order of the day.

Certain cases are being investigated by the Law Society and are currently before the courts. Because of this, the Society is unable to make any comment whatsoever about them despite the constant demand that we should do so. As a result, we have seen and heard media reports, including front page headlines, which are either completely false, or which are based on incomplete information from which incorrect and damaging conclusions are drawn.

It is, I assure you, very, very frustrating for the Law Society that we cannot publicly reply to and rebut these false and damaging reports about what allegedly occurred in the course of past Law Society investigations and decisions of the independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. Why do we not comment when it would be in our own interest to do so? We remain silent because there is something more important at stake than our own interest in today’s news story - because justice and fair procedures require that we must not comment.

We do not comment because we are not prepared to compromise the rights to justice of any individual. The Law Society will discharge its legal responsibilities regardless of the cost. But I tell you, the inability to respond to florid, fundamentally incorrect and misleading reports, damaging to the reputation of the Law Society and of the profession, is, I repeat, very, very frustrating.

I will say one thing, however, which is intended as a general statement and not as a comment on any particular case. It is this. The solicitors’ profession is founded on core values which protect not the profession but the public. The profession’s dedication to integrity is as great today as it has been throughout our history and I believe it always will be.

Some answers can be given to some of the more general criticisms that have been made. To start with, it is overly-simplistic to state that solicitors self-regulate. In point of fact, we are regulated by the President of the High Court, who appoints his own Disciplinary Tribunal to help in this work. The Disciplinary Tribunal is independent of the Law Society, has lay participants and can be approached directly at any time by any member of the public with a grievance, without first approaching the Law Society.

Frequently, cases before the Disciplinary Tribunal are referred by the Law Society. This is portrayed by some commentators as self-regulation, although it is clearly co-regulation. The Society’s own committees have lay participants and our internal processes are currently subject to the superintendence of the Independent Adjudicator. There is a proposal in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill to be introduced next session for a Legal Services Ombudsman. The Society supports this measure and are always positively disposed to measures to protect the public, and to enhance public confidence in lawyers, provided such measures do not undermine the core principles we have spoken of earlier.

For instance this year, following a long process of consultation, the Society, entirely unprompted by outside agencies, significantly improved the level of professional indemnity insurance cover available to our clients. We did not seek public plaudits, but it is nonetheless ironic that in all the “analysis” of our profession that we have read of in recent weeks, this important development has not received a mention.

Core principles come with a cost. Hundreds of thousands of transactions are undertaken annually by thousands of Irish solicitors to the complete satisfaction of their clients. Because of our rules of confidentiality, we are constrained from talking about these successes and sometimes forced to remain mute in the face of utterly unjustified criticism. We accept that this is a price that we must pay. We continue to be happy to comply fully with a regulatory regime under the auspices of the judiciary. So it is back to core principles again.

This conveniently brings us back to where we started, namely to congratulate you on your wonderful achievement in qualifying as Irish solicitors. No doubt there are many in the room who hope that this will be your last day on the family payroll. We know that you are all here with friends, family and supporters who have helped you over the long years to your qualification here today. Nobody makes it without support and we can only guess about the many, often unspoken sacrifices that have been made by your supporters to help you.

I would therefore now like to ask you the newly-qualified solicitors to stand up, turn round and give a round of applause to your supporters. I see TP that you were right that they would pass their first test as solicitors by taking instructions efficiently, and acting on them.
At the end of today’s ceremony there will be reception in your members’ lounge to which your family and friends are all invited. I emphasis your members’ lounge because as of today you now are the Law Society. I would urge you to be as involved as time permits both with the Law Society and its committees but also with your local Bar Associations.
Nil neart go teacht le cheile.
To conclude, you are very welcome to the profession and we all wish you every success for your careers.

Related Link: http://www.lawsociety.ie/
author by Domhain Sceadaman - The Plain People of Irelandpublication date Wed Nov 28, 2007 10:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For the Brinks watchers out there, Heros, Germanys bigest cash in transit company has had to close. The employees have STOLEN over €300 Million this year alone.

Slan

Domhain Sceadaman

Related Link: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,1913256,00.html
author by JR Ewingpublication date Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The banks are looking like such a bunch of fools after being ripped off by a few solicitors. They handed
out millions based purely on trust.
Try asking your bank manager for a couple of grand and add 'trust me'. No?

The question is: can we trust the care of our money, our wealth, to such incompetents?

author by empublication date Wed Nov 28, 2007 16:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

From the link-
"As much as 300 million euros may have been stolen by employees"
..or may not.

author by Domhain Sceadaman - The Plain People of Irelandpublication date Wed Nov 28, 2007 21:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry em I was in a rush and I should have added that my contact in G4S, who informed me about this one, was adamant about the had, and also added that the numbers are now indicating upwards from €300 M

DS

 
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