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Saturday 21 October 2017

Judge tells lawyers to shake off 'greedy' image

Marese McDonagh

LAWYERS should try to rid themselves of their "greedy, ambulance-chasing image", a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Michael Peart said that, for many people, the sheer expense of going to court amounted to a denial of their constitutional right of access to justice, or at least a significant obstruction.

Speaking at a seminar on Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), Judge Peart said there was little to be said in favour of the time-honoured adversarial system of litigation "unless one is a lawyer with a busy practice to whom the expense is an inescapable attraction and delay an irrelevance".

Given the ever-increasing workload of the courts, which are managed by "outdated, 19th Century rules", it was little wonder that the administration of justice was under pressure, said the judge.

Delays

While acknowledging that waiting times had been reduced in the High Court, he was critical of both the delays and the costs involved in litigation. There was a place for ADR but it should complement rather than replace an efficient courts process, he stressed.

Judge Peart admitted that when he first thought about solicitors and barristers encouraging mediation rather than going to court, "it seemed somewhat oxymoronic -- akin to a dentist encouraging children to brush their teeth and tobacco companies telling their clientele that smoking their product would kill them".

But he warned: "The profession has to try and shake off its greedy, ambulance-chasing image."

The seminar in Ballina, Co Mayo, was organised by Mediation Solutions North West, a body of accredited mediators that was established in May 2010 to promote ADR.

Sligo solicitor Keenan Johnson, president of the body, said it was clear, given the unprecedented level and size of personal debt in this country, that it was now impossible for the current, court-based system to deal with it.

"Our system is weighted in favour of the lenders and has its roots in outdated Victorian concepts," he said.

Irish Independent

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