independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Pay packets of senior executives at Law Society under scrutiny

AN independent review has been launched into the pay of senior executives at the Law Society, the representative body for solicitors.

The review follows demands by several local solicitors' groups for the pay of top officials, including director general Ken Murphy, to be revealed to members.

The society, which is funded exclusively by member subscriptions, has never published details of the remuneration of individual members of staff.

But Mr Murphy has come under fire in recent months from both the Mayo Solicitors' Bar Association and the Southern Law Association, which have pressed the society to confirm whether he was getting an annual salary of about €400,000.

The society was also challenged to reveal if the top three executives, Mr Murphy, deputy DG Mary Keane and director of regulation John Elliot, were together receiving packages totalling €1.1m. The solicitor bar associations did not receive the information sought.

Details of the Law Society review come weeks after it emerged that George McNeice, the former chief executive of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), was contractually entitled to in the region of €20m in pension and other provisions.

The IMO later reduced the package to €9.7m, following agreement with Mr McNeice, who had almost 30 years of service with the doctors' representative body. The Law Society, which has a staff of 207 – following 27 redundancies in the past three years – and an annual turnover of €30m, spends almost €10m a year on salaries and wages.

It says that the executive pay review, which is being carried out by consultancy firm Towers Watson Ireland, is designed to ensure that executive remuneration is "appropriate and in keeping with market norms".

Controversy

But the society, which represents some 12,000 solicitors, says the review is not connected to the IMO controversy.

"The current review was commenced before any of the recent public revelations in relation to the Irish Medical Organisation," said James McCourt, president of the society.

"I am absolutely satisfied that the systems, governance and control maintained over the years by the profession's elected officers in the Law Society are in total contrast with those which have emerged recently in relation to the Irish Medical Organisation."

The Bar Council, the governing body for barristers, also declined to comment on what it pays its senior staff, including its director Jerry Carroll, whose salary is believed to be in line with that of senior civil servants.

"It is our policy not to disclose any information relating to remuneration for any staff member."

The council, which employs just over 60 staff, represents 2,300 barristers who pay between €1,500 to almost €9,000 a year in subscriptions for law library services.

The progressive pay scale accommodates different rates for newly qualified barristers, barristers in their early years of "deviling" up to the status of senior counsel.

Barristers working outside of Dublin pay 50pc less than their counterparts in the capital.

This year, a reduction of 5pc was introduced on barristers' law library subscriptions and a further 3pc for early payment.

Irish Independent

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