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Irish judiciary ‘fiercely independent’ – Barniville
Photography at last night's parchment ceremony Pic: Jason Clarke

20 Jan 2023 / law society Print

Irish judiciary is ‘fiercely independent’ – Barniville

At a parchment ceremony for new solicitors at the Law Society last night (19 January), guest speaker Attorney General Rossa Fanning said that, in the past 25 years, the explosion in demand for legal services in Ireland had improved beyond recognition the range and volume of opportunities available for lawyers.

The larger firms in Dublin had, in many cases, quadrupled in size in one short generation, he said.

Ireland had an increasingly international market for legal services, and, on current trends, many new solicitors would spend at least a portion of their professional careers in practice abroad, the AG added.


The Attorney General's office itself would shortly resume recruiting, he said.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter simply didn't exist a generation ago, and neither did the legal issues that their businesses were throwing up, Fanning said.

“Law is not some monolithic set of rules that is impermeable to change, as its detractors sometimes seem to suggest. On the contrary, the law is and must be dynamic, it must always quickly adapt and respond to changes in human behaviour and commercial life,” he said. 

Contracts may nowadays be exchanged via WhatsApp messages, Fanning noted. 

“That certainly wasn't in the law books when I started studying law,” he stated.

Though the current practice of law was unrecognisably different, the fact remained that being a solicitor was a position of enormous prestige and respect within the community, the AG said.

Law Society President Maura Derivan told the new solicitors that they now had the training and ability to be champions of the rule of law.

She urged them to seize opportunities, and to be unafraid of changing direction in their careers.


“The whole world awaits you,” she said, “and it’s your world. You can make and shape it, and you can achieve anything. All you need is a full belief in yourself, hard work, commitment, and an ability to keep learning.”

“The Law Society is here to help and assist in the development of that chosen path,” the president said, with a wealth of expertise and knowledge available through the committee system.

The president advised meeting colleagues in person at events and conferences: “We are a family, albeit a family of professionals,” she said.

“You are not your work,” she told the solicitors, advising them not to be defined by the amount of work they did, and to enjoy other aspects of life as well-rounded people.

High Court President Mr Justice David Barniville said that an independent legal profession was vital to ensuring that there was an independent judiciary.

A fundamental aspect of this concept of independence was the notion that a lawyer was not to be identified with his or her client or cause, he said.


“Representatives of the profession must strongly resist attempts – whether by the State, by politicians, or by the media or others – to denigrate or criticise lawyers for acting for unpopular clients or causes,” he said.

“We are fortunate that there's very little of that in this country, although it's not entirely unheard of,” the High Court President said.

“The same cannot be said of our neighbouring jurisdiction, the United Kingdom, where attacks on lawyers working in certain areas – including asylum and immigration – by government ministers and fellow travellers are common and popular in some quarters,” he said.

There have been similar attacks on the judiciary in that country, the High Court President said.

“We're very fortunate in Ireland that our legal profession and our judiciary is fiercely and properly independent,” he concluded. 

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