Only the lawyers win with our current legal and court system
Published 01/11/2011 | 05:00
Once I went to a wedding which had a Greek input. During the reception we were all furnished with pins. Instead of bringing a wedding present, the plan was that we would pin money notes onto the bride and groom. One note was pinned onto another eventually creating streamers of notes hanging from the bride and groom as they danced around.
I was reminded of this scene recently on a visit to the Four Courts in Dublin. As the lawyers and barristers crossed the open square in the Four Courts, their gowns billowed in the wind just like the cash streamers at the Greek wedding.
It's not appropriate or fair to suggest that all the lawyers in Ireland are dripping with wealth. There are some who are prepared to adopt and support a cause even where the chance of getting paid is slim. I have encountered such brilliantly conscientious people. Also, there is the occasional pro-bono service where solicitors and barristers will give their time free of charge.
But the overall image of the Irish legal profession and Civil Courts is one of exorbitant charges, restrictive outdated practices, delay, inefficiency and resistance to reform. All of this combines to damage Ireland's competitiveness and can deprive individual citizens of their rights.
As major property stakeholders, farmers have a vested interest in the stability of the State's institutions and the efficient administration of the law.
But 'good law' in Ireland is prohibitively expensive, so much so that a bad settlement outside the courts is often preferable to going through the full legal process.
Reform of the legal system has been identified by our new IMF/EU/ECB masters as a priority for Ireland's economic recovery. In the recent past, Irish governments and their agencies have nourished the legal monster by paying vast monies for legal advice to outside law firms despite having a coterie of our own highly paid lawyers and solicitors in the civil service. The absolute Klondike for Ireland's top lawyers arrived with the spate of tribunals.
To give the Justice Minister Alan Shatter his due, he has made a start to unravel the legal monolith.