Law Society releases annual report, calls for investment in courts and family law facilities

The Society's Annual Report, outlining the achievements and progress of law and policy reform for 2016-17, has been released.

  • Law Society of Ireland Annual Report released outlining the achievements and progress of law and policy reform for 2016-17.
  • Society remains concerned at the levels of investment in the Courts Service, Probate Office and lack of dedicated family law facilities.
  • Society sees opportunity for Ireland to position itself as international centre for dispute resolution post-Brexit.

The Law Society of Ireland has released its Annual Report for 2016-17, and called upon the Irish Government to increase investment in its legal services in order to improve the system for Irish citizens, increase access to the law for those in disadvantaged circumstances and grasp opportunities that may result from Brexit.

“It is understood that the legal sector, as all sectors across Government, had to adjust quite drastically during the economic downturn. But with the welcome return to financial stability and growth, the Government needs to ensure the recovery does not leave the disadvantaged behind,” said Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society.

“While there have been recent improvements in the Courts Service, these are against the backdrop of disproportionate budget cuts during the recession and major courts-related initiatives being advanced in countries like the Netherlands, France and Germany in response to Brexit. Not only has this been to the detriment of Irish citizens, but puts the nation at a disadvantage when looking at global opportunities in the legal profession.”

The Law Society’s annual report outlines a range of policy and law reform issues it has progressed and advocated for, including restoration of civil legal aid rates, removal of financial barriers to victims of domestic violence to access legal aid, judicial appointment reform and the increased prioritisation of mediation as an effective dispute resolution process in the Irish legal system.

These achievements have been set against the backdrop of the challenges of Brexit, a changing profession being disrupted by technology and the challenging environment created by the insurance industry’s campaign to blame anyone but themselves for extraordinary insurance price hikes in Ireland.

“The annual report also outlines the work we have undertaken on a range of proactive and potential enterprising opportunities for the Irish economy – establishing Ireland as an international centre for dispute resolution, eConveyancing and investment in technology to create greater efficiencies in the courts system are just a number of opportunities we have undertaken a great deal of work in exploring.”

“A key area of concern for the Society and its members is the lack of Government action on creating a network of dedicated family law facilities. The personal and vulnerable nature of this area of law demands a 21st century approach to catering for the needs of those dealing with some of life’s most challenging circumstances – divorce, custody and child safety.”

The wider Irish legal sector currently generates an estimated €2.3bn annually in revenue, and contributes €1.7bn to the Irish economy, employing in excess of 18,000 people.

“We were encouraged to hear Chief Justice Frank Clarke’s prioritisation of resourcing and investment in technology in his recent New Legal Year Statement, however we will monitor progress on how this vision is implemented.”

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