Monday 18 December 2017

Lawyers feel pinch as they're forced to work 'harder and longer'

RONALD QUINLAN

DURING the boom, they rode the crest of the wave generated by the Irish obsession for buying and selling property to each other.

Now that wave has crashed on the shore, they're coining it again as advocates in the countless disputes being played out in the Commercial Court.

But as much as one might loathe lawyers for the job they do and just how much they're paid to do it, it would appear that even they are beginning to feel the pain of the recession.

"We're working harder than we ever worked and the work is harder to do now. The hours are longer and money's harder to make -- there's a lot of pressure on fees," head of litigation at Arthur Cox, David O'Donohoe, told the latest edition of the UK legal periodical, The Lawyer.

Not that Arthur Cox is alone when it comes to pressure from clients to reduce fees. It's clearly an issue for William Fry, too, judging by the comments of its head of litigation, Owen O'Sullivan.

He said: "What we're also seeing in litigation for the first time is that clients for whom we're doing good work and high-value work are looking for us to be very creative on fee structures."

Not that the country's legal eagles will be singing for their supper any time soon. Indeed, according to Mason Hayes & Curran head of litigation Declan Black, it will be "another three to five years" before the courts system works its way through the debt mountain now being argued over in the Commercial Court.

"There's real competition and pressure on rates, but because there's such an amount of debt to be worked through, this has another three to five years in it," Mr Black tells The Lawyer.

Turning to the matter of Ireland's financial services sector, the magazine noted how regulatory agencies have stepped up their activities and investigations, making more work for the lawyers in the process.

Asked for his view on this increasing regulation, William Fry's Mr O'Sullivan said: "There's a perception that things were too easy for far too long.

"A lot of the regulators are now having to justify their position; they're having to flex their muscles."

In an interesting aside and on another front entirely, the article noted how "luckily for the [legal] profession, the statute of limitation relating to claims [against lawyers] arising from the boom and bust will run out soon".

Sunday Independent

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