The Law Society’s Public and Government Affairs Manager, Fiona Cullen, sheds light on the Society’s engagement with Government about the issues that matter to the profession.
Over the next four weeks, the Society is shedding light on the work done for solicitors nationwide in education, public affairs, members services and regulation. Here, Public and Government Affairs Manager Fiona Cullen discusses the Society’s engagement with Government on the issues that matter to the profession.
What’s your background?
I was called to the Bar in 2008 and worked as the Head of Legal & HR at the Irish League of Credit Unions for many years.
Part of that role involved ongoing engagement with elected representatives and senior decision-makers in Dublin, Belfast, London and Brussels which was an excellent grounding for many aspects of my current role.
What does the role involve?
In short, it drives the Law Society’s policy and law reform agenda, in conjunction with the Director of Policy and Public Affairs.
The Society has a highly respected, important and valued voice in the public discourse and what we say, particularly on issues of policy and law reform, matters.
We are incredibly fortunate that our Committee structure - which involves close to 400 volunteers giving of their time and knowledge freely - enables us to make expert submissions in a wide range of areas which have a substantial impact on law and policy formulation in the State.
To facilitate that vital input, an important aspect of my role involves monitoring Oireachtas debates and the work programmes of Departments of State and State Agencies to ensure that the Committees are aware of issues of interest.
Once Committees produce draft submissions, I review and edit the contents to ensure that legal analysis is presented as compelling argument likely to resonate and that the Society speaks with a unified voice across all such commentary.
Acting as minute-taker at Council meetings provides me with an incredibly useful insight on issues of particular interest/concern to the Council and, in turn, the wider profession. That knowledge is invaluable in ensuring that, wherever possible, our submissions clearly articulate those views.
I also co-ordinate the Society’s participation in the CCBE which requires a comprehensive understanding of issues which impact on the legal profession across the EU. Again, that awareness is incredibly useful in ensuring that our interactions with Government articulate relevant concerns and align with positions taken by the Law Societies and Bars of other Members States, wherever that is necessary and appropriate.
Because the law touches almost every aspect of life, the range of areas where the Society provides input is incredibly broad. For example, recent submissions have focused on issues ranging from the long-overdue necessity to provide a fit-for-purpose family court structure in the State, necessary updates to the Mental Health Act and the State’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities all the way over to the technicalities of the Competition (Amendment) Bill, the Consumer Insurance Contracts Act and the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill.
Suffice to say – mundanity is not something I have to worry about in my work!
Find out more
This article originally appeared in the 20 April 2021 Member eZine. For more information, and to subscribe, visit eNewsletters.