I see in the today’s Irish Times that I have shocked a solicitor. That’s one to note in the calendar.
The core issue for solicitors is simple.
They can opt to remain within their unassailable legal fortress where they can do pretty much as they like with the single drawback of being rightfully seen as a largely disreputable profession.
They can come out into the open and submit themselves to regulation by the law just like everybody else.
They will benefit greatly if the decide on the latter. The unacceptable number of dodgy solicitors will be quickly rooted out and the profession will begin to regain public trust and respect.
Here’s my ‘shocking’ letter and the solicitor’s reply.
Several solicitors have expressed concerns (November 2nd, 3rd, 6th) arising from the activities of two of their colleagues, Michael Lynn and Thomas Byrne.
Some blame the situation on the intense pressure solicitors are under, the exploitation of solicitors by the banks and the greed of some clients who are prepared to risk paying peanuts for monkeys.
Also, in mitigation of their profession, they trot out the old canard that only a few rotten apples are involved – thus suggesting that, by and large, the legal profession has its house in order.
The reality is different. In recent years it has become obvious that solicitors, operating under the privileged protection of self-regulation, are among the least accountable groups in society. It is ridiculous and unacceptable that the Law Society should regulate and at the same time represent its members.
This scandal is just the latest in a series that have brought the profession into disrepute. The disgraceful rip-off by solicitors of abuse victims appearing before the Residential Institution Redress Board has yet to be resolved more than two years after the victims were assured by the Law Society that their cases would be dealt with immediately and transparently through a fast-track system.
In his letter of November 2nd, Muredach Doherty is highly critical of the banks, claiming they are at least morally deserving of the difficulties they find themselves in as a result of the activities of Byrne and Lynn.
He and his colleagues would be well advised to examine the quality of morality in their own profession in order to preserve a rapidly dwindling level of public trust. – Yours, etc,
Madam, – I am shocked by Anthony Sheridan’s conclusion that, because of the recent controversies, we solicitors are now morally suspect (November 7th).
It presupposes that as a profession we are some sort of moral supermen and superwomen who are not subject to human failing.
I, at least, claim no moral superiority or insight and am a human being subject to the same failings as everyone else.
He and other commentators are correct, however, in concluding that The Law Society cannot be both a representative body and a regulatory body.
It has now become oppressive to practising solicitors in its attempt to assure the public of its regulatory role. It no longer functions as an effective representative body for solicitors.
It is only right that when solicitors fail legally and morally, an effective regulatory body should hold them to account. It is also right that when solicitors fail they have a representative body to speak for them. The present system is satisfactory for neither solicitors nor clients.
I do not care who regulates me. If they do not do their job the public will let them know. I do care who represents me.
RODERICK TYRRELL, Solicitor, Haddington Road, Dublin 4.