Solicitor Joan Crawford is to become the first female chief executive officer (CEO) of the Legal Aid Board.
Minister for Justice Simon Harris announced her appointment after an open recruitment process held by the Public Appointments Service, and selection by the Top Level Appointments Committee (TLAC).
The Legal Aid Board is the statutory, independent body responsible for the provision of civil legal aid and advice to people unable to afford a solicitor.
It provides legal aid and advice primarily through a network of law centres, and solicitors employed by the board. Its remit was widened in 2011 to include family-mediation services.
As CEO, Crawford will be responsible for managing a budget of €56 million, and a team of more than 520 staff across the State.
She described her appointment as “a great honour”, adding that the board played an important role in society.
“Working closely with all those with an interest in the services provided by the board, we will make the most of the opportunity presented by the Family Justice Strategy 2022-2025 to bring about a more streamlined and user-friendly system that places children and the family at its centre,” Crawford stated.
She takes over, however, at a time when some family-law solicitors have warned about an undermining of morale in the board, due to low pay and underwork.
The new head of the board has extensive experience in general practice and local government, as well as in court cases involving family law and mediation, child abduction, and child care.
She has served as Director of Internal Service Delivery (Civil) and Regional Manager for the Legal Aid Board, having worked as a solicitor and, subsequently, as a managing solicitor in various law centres in the Dublin region.
A graduate of UCD and the Institute of Public Administration (IPA), Crawford holds a Master’s in Public Management, and Diplomas in European Law, Child Care Law, and Mental Health and Capacity Law.
Last year, she told a Law Society parchment ceremony that her career in the Legal Aid Board had not always been easy, but had always been exciting and challenging,
She replaces outgoing CEO John McDaid.