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Legal Fees

Which of us is happy with our handwriting? Some, no doubt, but for many of us the admirable writing in our school handwriting workbooks is a thing of the past.

[The United States of America produced its Declaration of Independence in cursive script (HERE)]

So it is with other standards. Here in Ireland we call cursive script joined-up-writing and we aspire to that, but we have little tradition of its cousin, joined-up-government.

In Ireland, government must be conducted in accordance with the Irish Constitution and in pursuit of its objectives. One of those objectives is to vindicate the person [or the good name] of the citizen. That means that if a person is injured the State must and will ensure the citizen is compensated by any wrongdoer responsible for the injury.

You would think that this imperative would produce a regime directed to that purpose, but if you did you would be wrong.

Sure, in law a wrongdoer is liable to pay compensation, but Ireland is not anxious to ensure that that happens. If it were it would have introduced a system currently to be found in the United Kingdom. There, an injured person can enter an agreement with a lawyer to pay an enhanced fee for legal services, conditional on the claim being successful [“Conditional Fee Agreement”]. The defendant will then be liable for that fee in the event of success. In short, the UK recognizes that poor claimants are at a disadvantage relative to rich claimants, in legal proceedings.

This is an inherent feature of the previous UK position [and the current Irish one] where everybody is assumed to be a prosperous gentleman [probably Victorian] who pays his lawyer’s bills on a weekly or monthly basis and expects to recover those expenditures from any wrongdoer when he is successful in his claim that his lawyer prosecutes.

That assumed position is unreal. Such prosperous gentlemen are few and far between. Everybody knows this and yet, in Ireland, nothing is done to remedy the situation.

In fact, the opposite has happened. The government established the Personal Injuries Assessment Board [“PIAB”] to assist defendants. No claimant’s lawyer’s fees are payable by the respondent in the PIAB system. PIAB itself assures claimants that they do not need a lawyer to represent them, a claim at once untrue and an insult.

Any intelligent PIAB claimant must engage a lawyer at his or her own expense without any chance of making the defendant wrongdoer assume responsibility for that expense despite the fact that the defendant caused the expense to be accrued.

On top of all of that, in Ireland it is illegal for a lawyer to advertise that he or she will act for a claimant on the basis that the claimant will not have to pay legal fees if the claim is unsuccessful.

All in all, these provisions and arrangements are in direct opposition to the objectives of the Irish Constitution.