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Law Society of Ireland

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Law Society of Ireland

Law Society of Ireland
Law Society of Ireland building
Headquarters Blackhall Place
Membership 12,000+
Staff 207
Website .ie.lawsocietywww

The Law Society of Ireland (in Irish: Dlí-Chumann na hÉireann) is the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors' profession in the Republic of Ireland. As of 2011, the Law Society had over twelve thousand members, all solicitors, a staff of 207 and an annual turnover of €30m.


Law Society of Ireland was established on 24 June 1830 with premises at Inns Quay, Dublin. In November 1830, the committee of the Society submitted a memorial to the benchers as to the ‘necessity and propriety’ of erecting chambers for the use of solicitors with the funds that solicitors had been levied to pay to King’s Inns over the years[1] The committee requested that the hall and chambers for the use of solicitors should be erected away from the King’s Inns, and apartments in the Four Courts were allotted by the King’s Inns to solicitors in May 1841. However, the adequacy of that accommodation at the Four Courts was to be a bone of contention between the Society and the benchers for 30 years.[2] The first president, Josiah Dunn, was elected in 1842. In accordance with the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (Ireland) 1877, anyone admitted as solicitors or attorneys were, from then on, to be referred to as solicitors of the Court of Judicature (although the title of attorney lives on in the designation of the chief law officer of the State as the Attorney General).[3]

Incorporation by Royal Charter

Law Society building after a snowstorm. November 2010

The Law Society was incorporated by royal charter obtained from Queen Victoria on 5 April 1852 under the name of "the Incorporated Society of Attorneys and Solicitors of Ireland". The charter referred to founding "an institution for facilitating the acquisition of legal knowledge", and for the better and more convenient discharging of professional duties of attorneys and solicitors.[4] The principal events with which the Law Society was concerned on behalf of solicitors in the second half of the 19th century were: · The inauguration of a scheme for the education of apprentices, · The independence of the solicitors’ profession from the King’s Inns, · The achievement of an increasing degree of self-government and recognition of its position as the representative and regulatory body for solicitors in Ireland, culminating in the Solicitors (Ireland) Act 1898.

At the end of the 19th century, the legal functions of the Law Society were substantially increased by the Solicitors (Ireland) Act 1898, which repealed the act of 1866 and transferred control of education and important disciplinary functions from the direct supervision of the judges to that of the Society. In 1888, the constitution of the Council of the Society was changed by supplemental charter, which provided that the Northern Law Society and Southern Law Association would each be entitled to appoint members to the Council. This was further changed in 1960, when provision was made for the appointment to the Council of three members of the Dublin Solicitors’ Bar Association Council.[5] The professions of attorney and solicitor were fused under the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Act, 1877. As a consequence, the Law Society was granted a supplemental charter, again by Queen Victoria on 14 December 1888 under which the Law Society was styled the "Incorporated Law Society of Ireland". The current statutory basis for the Law Society is set out in the Solicitors Acts 1954 – 2002. In 1994, the Law Society’s name was changed once more, this time the word "Incorporated" (in Irish: "Corpraithe") being omitted from its title.

Acquiring Blackhall Place

By the middle of the 1960s, the solicitors’ buildings at the Four Courts were proving inadequate for the expanding activities of the Society and outside premises were used for lectures for students. A special committee recommended the purchase of the King’s Hospital, Blackhall Place, described by renowned architectural historian, Maurice Craig, as "one of the most beautiful and, in its way, original" of Dublin’s major buildings.[6] Council member of the Law Society, Peter Prentice, proposed a motion at a special meeting of the Council on 3 July 1968 (seconded by John Jermyn) that the Society purchase the King’s Hospital for the sum of IR£105,000. The motion was carried unanimously and a contract was subsequently executed.[7] An Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, performed the official opening ceremony of the new headquarters on Wednesday 14 June 1978.[8]

Solicitors as judges

The Society pressed for many years for a change in the law so as to permit the appointment of solicitors in the Circuit Court and the High Court. The Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 allowed for the appointment of solicitors as judges to the Circuit Court.[9] In July 1996, the government announced the appointment of solicitors John F Buckley, Frank O’Donnell and Michael White as judges of the Circuit Court – the first such appointments in the history of the State.[10] The Courts and Court Officers Act 2002 provided that a person shall be qualified for appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court and the High Court if he or she is, for the time being, a practising barrister or practising solicitor of not less than 12 years’ standing.[11] Shortly after its enactment, Michael Peart became the first practising solicitor to be appointed a judge of the High Court.[12]


A new Law School, built on premises adjoining the existing Blackhall Place headquarters, was officially opened by President Mary McAleese on 2 October 2000. The new library at Blackhall Place was also opened by President McAleese on the same day.[13]

In the News

Law Society to send out undercover court agents[14]

Compensation costs hit €4.7m[15]

Fugitive solicitor Michael Lynn arrested in Brazil[16]

Shatter bows to fears over political control of new legal watchdog[17]

Shatter in talks over ‘specialist’ insolvency judges[18]

Legal eagles soar around Blackhall for Calcutta Run[19]

Accountants told not to sign confidentiality agreements with AIB[20]

Costs will fall in ‘legal revolution’[21]

Failed professions have ‘lost right to self-regulate’ - expert[22]

Perrin may be struck off as files released[23]

Attorney General in talks with senior judges to quell dispute[24]

Law Society damages fund incurs €2.24m loss[25]


The governing body of the Law Society is its Council. It comprises both elected and nominated members, all of whom are solicitors. Over the years the Council has established a range of committees to which it delegates certain of its statutory functions.

The Council may comprise not more than 48 persons. Of its membership, between 21 and 31 must be elected from among the Law Society's members. A delegate from each of the four provinces of Ireland must also be chosen. Up to five extraordinary members may be appointed from each of the Councils of the Southern Law Association and the Law Society of Northern Ireland while three may be appointed from the Council of the Dublin Solicitors' Bar Association.

As of 2009, the Law Society's Council comprised forty-eight members, being the maximum permitted. Annually they select one of their number as president. That term of office runs from early November to early November of the following year.

List of presidents since 1842[26]

  • 1842–1848 Josias Dunn
  • 1848–1860 William Goddard
  • 1860–1876 Sir Richard J. T. Orpen
  • 1876 Edward Reeves
  • 1876/77 William Roche
  • 1877/78 Sir William Findlater
  • 1878/79 William Read
  • 1879/80 Henry A. Dillon
  • 1880/81 John H. Nunn
  • 1881/82 Henry J. P. West
  • 1882/83 Henry T. Dix
  • 1883/84 William D'Alton
  • 1884/85 John Galloway
  • 1885/86 Henry L. Keily
  • 1886/87 Sir Patrick Maxwell
  • 1887/88 Richard S. Reeves
  • 1888/89 John MacSheehy
  • 1889/90 W. Burroughs Stanley
  • 1890/91 Francis R. M. Crozier
  • 1891/92 Thomas C. Franks
  • 1892/93 Edward Fitgerald
  • 1893/94 John Alexander French
  • 1894/95 Trevor T. L. Overend
  • 1895/96 Sir William Fry
  • 1896/97 Sir William Findlater
  • 1897/98 William Henry Dunne
  • 1898/99 Hugh Stuart Moore
  • 1899/00 Richard S. Reeves
  • 1900/01 James Goff and Sir George Roche
  • 1901/02 Charles A. Stanuell
  • 1902/03 Sir Augustine F. Baker
  • 1903/04 Robert Keating Clay and Edward D. MacLaughlin
  • 1904/05 Edward D. MacLaughlin
  • 1905/06 Sir John P. Lynch
  • 1906/07 William S. Heyes
  • 1907/08 George H. Lyster
  • 1908/09 William J. Shannon
  • 1909/10 Richard A. MacNamara
  • 1910/11 Frederick Walsingham Meredith
  • 1911/12 Gerald Byrne
  • 1912/13 James Henry
  • 1913/14 Henry J. Sinnott
  • 1914/15 Arthur E. Bradley
  • 1915/16 Charles St George Orpen
  • 1916/17 John W. Richards
  • 1917/18 William V. Seddall
  • 1918/19 Richard Blair White
  • 1919/20 Robert G. Warren
  • 1920/21 Charles G. Gamble
  • 1921/22 Patrick J. Brady
  • 1922/23 Joseph E. MacDermott
  • 1923/24 James Moore
  • 1924/25 Arthur H. S. Orpen
  • 1925/26 Thomas G. Quirke
  • 1926/27 William T. Sheridan
  • 1927/28 Basil Thompson
  • 1928/29 Edward H. Burne
  • 1929/30 Peter Seales
  • 1930/31 Alexander D. Orr
  • 1931/32 Laurence J. Ryan
  • 1932/33 W. Gorden Bradley
  • 1933/34 James J. Lynch
  • 1934/35 Charles Laverty
  • 1935/36 Michael E. Knight
  • 1936/37 John J. Duggan
  • 1937/38 Thomas W. Delaney
  • 1938/39 Daniel J. Reilly
  • 1939/40 Henry P. Mayne
  • 1940/41 J. Travers Wolfe
  • 1941/42 G. Acheson Overend
  • 1942/43 John B. Hamill
  • 1943/44 Louis E. O'Dea
  • 1944/45 Parick F. O'Reilly
  • 1945/46 Daniel O'Connell
  • 1946/47 H. St J. Blake
  • 1947/48 Sean O hUadhaigh
  • 1948/49 Patrick R. Boyd
  • 1949/50 William J. Norman
  • 1950/51 Roger Green
  • 1951/52 Arthur Cox
  • 1952/53 James R. Quirke
  • 1953/54 Joseph Barrett
  • 1954/55 Thomas A. O'Reilly
  • 1955/56 Dermot P. Shaw
  • 1956/57 Nial S. Gaffney
  • 1957/58 John Carrigan
  • 1958/59 John R. Halpin
  • 1959/60 John J. Nash
  • 1960/61 Ralph J. Walker
  • 1961/62 George G. Overend
  • 1962/63 Francis J. Lanigan
  • 1963/64 Desmond J. Collins
  • 1964/65 John Maher
  • 1965/66 Robert McD. Taylor
  • 1966/67 Patrick O'Donnell TD
  • 1967/68 Parick Noonan
  • 1968/69 Eunan McCarran
  • 1969/70 James R. C. Green
  • 1970/71 Brendan A. McGrath
  • 1971/72 James W. O'Donovan
  • 1972/73 Thomas V. O'Connor
  • 1973/74 Peter D. M. Prentice
  • 1974/75 William A. Osbourne
  • 1975/76 Patrick G. Moore
  • 1976/77 Bruce St John Blake
  • 1977/78 Josseph L. Dundon
  • 1978/79 Gerald Hickey
  • 1979/80 Walter Beatty
  • 1980/81 Moya Quinlan
  • 1981/82 Brendan W. Allen
  • 1982/83 Michael P. Houlihan
  • 1983/84 Frank O'Donnell
  • 1984/85 Anthony E. Collins
  • 1985/86 Laurence Cullun
  • 1986/87 David R. Pigot
  • 1987/88 Thomas D. Shaw
  • 1988/89 Maurice R. Curran
  • 1989/90 Ernest Margetson
  • 1990/91 Donal G. Binchy
  • 1991/92 Adrian P. Bourke
  • 1992/93 Raymond T. Monahan
  • 1993/94 Michael V. O'Mahony
  • 1994/95 Patrick A. Glynn
  • 1995/96 Andrew F. Smyth
  • 1996/97 Francis D. Daly
  • 1997/98 Laurence K. Shields
  • 1998/99 Patrick O'Connor
  • 1999/00 Anthony H. Ensor
  • 2000/01 Ward McEllin
  • 2001/02 Elma Lynch
  • 2002/03 Geraldine M. Clarke
  • 2003/04 Gerard F. Griffin
  • 2004/05 Owen M. Binchy
  • 2005/06 Michael Irvine
  • 2006/07 Philip M. Joyce
  • 2007/08 James MacGuill
  • 2008/09 John D. Shaw
  • 2009/10 Gerard Doherty
  • 2010/11 John E. Costello
  • 2011/12 Donald Binchy[27]
  • 2012/13 James McCourt
  • 2013/14 John P. Shaw


The Law Society has a range of statutory and non-statutory functions. Its statutory functions under the Solicitors Acts relate to the education and admission of persons to the profession; regulatory and disciplinary matters and protection of solicitors' clients. The Law Society's non-statutory functions relate to the representation and provision of services to its members and protecting the public interest.

Recent developments

In 2005 a special committee of the Law Society said it was utterly appalled at reports that some solicitors have double-charged for work done for victims of institutional abuse.[28]

In a lecture given to students in Cork, the Master of the High Court Edmund Honohan SC advocated independent regulation of the profession saying that no spinning by the Society could disguise the systemic failure of self-regulation. He said most solicitors must now realise they had been let down, not just by a few rogue negligent solicitors, but by the Law Society itself.[29]

A website launched in February 2006 by a number of individuals styling themselves "the Victims of the Legal Profession",, was used for a time by people to vent their frustrations with solicitors.[30] The High Court has since made orders requiring that the site be taken down on foot of allegations that it contained defamatory content.[31]

Four Courts

The Society has investigated a number of solicitors whose actions have damaged both their clients and the reputation of the profession. The most high-profile cases were those of Michael Lynn and Thomas Byrne, who were both struck off by the President of the High Court following investigation by the Society.[32] The two Dublin solicitors, who were fined €2 million and €1 million respectively, may have cost financial institutions more than €100 million. The Law Society's director general, Ken Murphy, has described as "incomprehensible" the length of time it has taken the Garda to investigate complaints against the two.[33]

The Law Society's compensation fund was almost halved in value because of the number of claims against solicitors and the Law Society's President John D Shaw said "I'd have to concede that the profession has suffered significant professional damage, but the vast majority of solicitors do their best, and I think they have been very let down by the few".[34]

The Law Society had to pay the €100,000 costs of a Supreme Court appeal it brought against two Dublin solicitors who admitted operating secret accounts to evade tax in May 2009.[35]

Michael Murray, the state solicitor for Limerick City and brother of the former Chief Justice, said there was "concern within certain official circles that a tiny minority of solicitors are harvesting information on operational matters and passing them on to the criminal fraternity and effectively acting as criminal intelligence officers for criminal gangs".[36][37]

The Law Society said solicitors who fail to pay over to the Revenue Commissioners stamp duty that they have received from clients "will be treated very severely". On over 155 occasions in the first five months of 2009 the Law Society had to step in and compensate the Revenue and admitted "the unravelling of the building boom means we are likely to see quite a few more cases" which the Society takes "very seriously".[38]

The failure by the legal profession to implement proposals for electronic property conveyancing made possible tens of millions of euro in mortgage fraud and one unnamed executive at a specialist lender said that "because of this joke of Law Society self-regulation, conveyancing costs will now increase and hurt consumers".[39]

In December 2009, the Law Society had to prop up The Solicitors Mutual Defence Fund, which provides the majority of solicitors with insurance cover against negilence claims.[40]

In March 2011 the National Competitiveness Council said the legal profession in Ireland and the services it provides have come to be seen as overpriced, unaccountable and archaic. However, change is on the way, following the commitment by Ireland under the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding to no longer to allow the legal profession to run its own affairs.[41]

Two months later it was revealed that the Solicitors' Mutual Defence Fund, which is independent of the Law Society, was effectively insolvent after it suffered financial losses because of the '"extremely high level of claims arising from the collapse of the property market and the collapse of a Bond, which wiped out a substantial portion of the Fund's reserves". In June 2011 the members of the Law Society voted in a postal ballot to pay for a €16 million bail-out of the Fund to enable its orderly wind-down, with all claims being paid in full.[42]

An independent review was launched in January 2013 into the pay of senior executives, following demands by several local solicitors' groups for the pay of top officials to be revealed to members.[43] The Mayo Solicitors' Bar Association and Southern Law Association asked the society to confirm if the Director General was earning an annual salary of some €400,000, and if its top three senior executives earned combined packages totalling €1.1m.[44]


  1. ^ Talk:Law Society of Ireland#cite note-1
  2. ^ ‘Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(pp32, 40)
  3. ^ Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p59)
  4. ^ Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p41)
  5. ^ Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p43-56)
  6. ^ Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p123)
  7. ^ ‘Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p124)
  8. ^ Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p125)
  9. ^ ‘Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002) (p167)
  10. ^ ‘Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p167)
  11. ^ Courts of the Republic of Ireland
  12. ^
  13. ^ ‘Law Society of Ireland – 1852-2002: Portrait of a Profession’, by Dr Eamonn G Hall and Daíre Hogan, (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002)(p288)
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ The Law Society of Ireland 1852–2002: Portrait of a Profession By Eamonn G. Hall and Daire Hogan: Appendice 2, Pages 226–227, ISBN 1-85182-695-5 and the The Law Directory 2011 published by the Law Society of Ireland
  27. ^ "Clonmel's Donald Binchy elected President of the Law Society of Ireland for 2011/12". 12 November 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  28. ^ "Law Society discusses overcharging allegations".  
  29. ^ "Solicitors 'let down' by Law Society".  
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ "Web service seeks to have ruling for solicitor set aside".  
  32. ^ "Law Society condemns actions of former solicitor Michael Lynn". Press release. The Law Society of Ireland. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  33. ^ McGee, Harry (21 June 2011). "Law Society criticises Garda delays in solicitor investigations".  
  34. ^ "The Sunday Business Post". Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  35. ^ Healy, Tim (28 May 2009). "Law Society gets €100,000 appeal bill".  
  36. ^ Woulfe, Jimmy (7 July 2009). "'"Claim some solicitors acting as gang 'intelligence officers.  
  37. ^ [2]
  38. ^ Drennan, John (5 July 2009). "Solicitors default on stamp duty bills".  
  39. ^ [3]
  40. ^ O'Hora, Ailish (15 December 2009). "Watchdog bails out lawyers' insurance scheme".  
  41. ^ "The Sunday Business Post". Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  42. ^ Harris, Joanne (15 June 2011). "Irish lawyers say yes to rescue of professional mutual fund". The Lawyer. Centaur Media. Retrieved 29 July 2011. 
  43. ^ Dearbhail McDonald (28 January 2013). "Pay packets of senior executives at Law Society under scrutiny".  
  44. ^ Paul Melia (29 January 2013). "Law Society head defends review of his own salary as 'routine' exercise".  

External links

  • Official website

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