High Court judge and qualified solicitor Mr Justice Liam Kennedy told last night’s parchment ceremony at the Law Society (28 September) that professional courtesy should always be maintained between lawyers and legal firms.
Courtesy and respect were vital towards clients who had entrusted their affairs to a solicitor, he said, even on what might seem mundane or trivial matters.
He also urged the new solicitors to avoid correspondence that was unnecessarily personal or aggressive: “It really does nothing to advance the case,” he said.
Mr Justice Kennedy added that solicitors had a crucial role in deciding the overall strategy for protecting clients’ interests.
Professional undertakings were legally binding and a serious matter, he said.
“Never allow yourself to be put in a position where your honesty and integrity are compromised,” he told the new solicitors, urging them to be scrupulous in terms of dealing with client monies.
Solicitors were also entitled to be treated with respect and courtesy, and the profession should stand firm against bullying, he commented.
He referred to the case of a junior solicitor in England who had left a briefcase on a train and, subsequently, had been struck off.
This was a sad case of genuine human error that could happen to anyone, the High Court judge said.
The junior solicitor was initially expelled from the profession in a question about whether she had been fully candid, he continued.
She was subsequently able to resume legal work after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) agreed to drop the case. The SRA asked the tribunal to withdraw the allegations completely, with no order as to costs, concluding proceedings.
Mistakes are human
The original mistake was not the central issue, however, Mr Justice Kennedy said. “All of us will make mistakes – we are human beings,” he stated.
“What will define you is how you respond to them,” he warned, urging the new solicitors to speak to colleagues whenever difficulties arose.
Mr Justice Kennedy was representing the President of the High Court, Mr Justice David Barniville, at the ceremony.
Last night’s cohort of 60 Blackhall Place graduates included the majority of the first Hybrid PPC trainees.
Sara O’Sullivan was awarded the Law Society Litigation Prize and the Gallagher Shatter Prize.
Photos of the ceremony can also be viewed on Gazette.ie.