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Judge slates ‘ludicrous’ pay rates
Ken Murphy, Miriam O’Callaghan, Mr Justice Bobby Eagar and President Patrick Dorgan Pic: Jason Clarke

09 May 2019 / Law Society Print

Judge slates ‘ludicrous’ pay rates for criminal defence solicitors in Quirke trial

Mr Justice Bobby Eagar of the High Court last night expressed anger at the derisory rates of legal aid for criminal defence solicitors, which have remained pegged at Great Recession levels, despite the upswing in the economy.

Speaking at the parchment ceremony for new solicitors graduating from Blackhall Place, he pointed to the recent Quirke murder trial and said that the amount of money that solicitors were being paid was “ludicrous”.

Responsibility

“It doesn’t represent the work they do as solicitors and it’s about time the minister took responsibility for that,” he said.

He told the new solicitors that they must always look after their client, who comes to them for advice and representation.

“The privilege that is so important to the practice of solicitors is that of the client,” he said.

He urged the new solicitors to take time to go into nature, away from mobile phones and email.

“Otherwise, the law will consume you and exhaust you,” he said.

Legal aid budget

He called for a legal aid budget and a role for solicitors in Oireachtas issues of housing and social welfare.

‘It’s not a huge budget that’s required but it’s one that in my view is absolutely necessary.”

Law Society President Patrick Dorgan told the new solicitors that their word is absolutely their bond and their colleagues should always be able to rely on it.

“You have a duty to be as vigorous as you can in the interests of your client but that never means taking shortcuts with the truth, being devious in any way, misleading colleagues or misleading the court,” he warned.

He urged the new solicitors to look after themselves and their colleagues in terms of mental health and also to find time to enjoy life.

Implacable courtesy

Implacable courtesy is broadcaster and qualified solicitor Miriam O’Callaghan’s rule of life.

She told the newly-minted solicitors at last night’s parchment ceremony in Blackhall Place that following this golden rule will pay them back a hundredfold as they go through their careers.

“I love the Law Society and I love Blackhall Place. I became a solicitor here,” she began.

“My poor father never got over the fact that I gave it up,” she said, explaining that her dad was from a small farm in Co Kerry and did not have the resources to become a lawyer though he would have loved that profession.

“When I became a solicitor he was absolutely thrilled,” she said and her parchment ceremony was one of his greatest days ever, as he was so happy to see one of his children became a lawyer.

“Every day of my life, even last night on RTE’s Prime Time, I still am a lawyer,” she said.

“What you are taught is incredible powers of reasoning, of being rational, of interrogating argument, of questioning, of constantly trying to see what’s right and what’s fair.

“A solicitor is such a great training. It teaches you, in life, to be all of those things and have all of those gifts which enables you to be the brilliant lawyers that you will be,” she told the new entrants to the profession.

Privilege

It’s a privilege to be a lawyer in our society, she continued, and with privilege comes great responsibility and it’s important to give back to the less fortunate members of society.

“It’s such a wonderful career … and a noble and important profession,” she said, urging the new entrants to rejoice and feel proud in their success as fully-fledged solicitors.

“Not everyone is lucky enough to become a lawyer. Responsibility comes with being a lawyer because people normally come to see a lawyer when they are in trouble.”

Kindness

She advised the new solicitors to work hard in life but always to treat people with kindness and care.

“It comes back in boundless oodles of wealth to you, I’ve always believed that,” she said.

She said the late poet Seamus Heaney had been a great friend and had given her this invaluable advice, along with a priest she spoke to when embarking on her career

“If you treat everybody you meet with implacable courtesy, by and large, it defuses most situations. You feel better about yourself and they feel totally disabled by the way in which you treated them.”

A good life

It’s important to live a good life, that one can be proud of, she concluded.

“Be good to yourselves. Love yourselves, love your friends, love your families, because life is quite short and it’s about what you give to it.”

 

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