Law Society Ructions

Phoenix Magazine reports on consternation within the Law Society about it’s dual role as regulator and representative of solicitors interests.

The High Court challenge is against the Law Society’s complaints committee’s determination that the two solicitors charged excessive fees for processing claims by two abuse victims before the Residential Institutions Redress Board and
also against the society’ decision to investigate their conduct.

The case is regarded as a critical one in the Law Society establishment as d’Esterre Roberts is a former member of the society’s
council – he represented the Southern Law Association on council for many years – and also sat on the society’s High Court
Disciplinary Committee. That d’Esterre Roberts should now find himself charged and convicted, so to speak, by the complaints
committee is ironic, but it is also an indication of a growing tension within the Law Society itself.

Solicitors up and down the country have been muttering into their G&Ts that the society needs to decide whether it is a body
representing members or regulating them. A specific argument advanced by the two solicitors in last week’s High Court hearing
was that the society is so concerned about bad publicity that it is taking a “hard line” against its own members.

This mirrors the growing noises amongst the profession who believe that they are the butt of media and political pressure for an
independent, lay regulation of professionals. The restive solicitors are now arguing that the Law Society should be stripped entirely of its regulatory powers – which should be devolved to an independent body outside of the profession – and concentrate instead on representing and defending its members.

Director general Ken Murphy, president Michael Irvine and other leading legal eagles on the Law Society council are not likely to
lead any campaign to divest themselves of any such powers, but a caucus is forming that will lead a charge on this issue shortly.

This is in light of the recent Prime Time investigation into solicitor malpractice and incompetence in the State.