Bill Holohan: Days in the life of a new Law Society Council member
Cork solicitor Bill Holohan of Holohan Lane reflects on his recent election to the Law Society Council.
Thanks to my colleagues in the legal profession, I have recently elected as a member of the Council of the Law Society of Ireland for the next two years. My first meeting was last Friday. However, there was a bit of pre-meeting preparation/activity.
First of all, I had the benefit of briefings from several more “seasoned” colleagues who have been members of Council for some time. They gave me an interesting insight into the procedures and the people around the table, each from their unique perspectives, and they also helped to inform me when it came to reading the 340 or so pages of documentation provided to the Council Members by way of advance reading before the meeting. This was helpful!
Prior to the meeting itself, I also had the honour of representing the Law Society at an excellent three-day course run by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators on conciliation running from last Wednesday to last Friday. Conciliation is “Mediation Plus” where, when the parties arrive at a point where they cannot resolve the problem with the assistance of a disputes resolver, the conciliator will issue a recommendation. Very interesting and well worthwhile.
As I was on duty representing the Law Society, I missed out on my usual alternative dispute resolution and professional indemnity insurance committee meetings, which took place on Thursday, preceding the Council meeting on the Friday.
Also, on the Thursday evening preceding the Council meeting, I also attended the Annual General meeting which was followed by a nice social get-together.
On Friday, I did take time out from the CIArb conciliation course to attend the Council meeting. Could not miss that!
As I am sure is the case with all the members every year, this year’s outgoing president Patrick Dorgan welcomed new members of Council such as myself, but in my case, he added the information that both he and I “soldiered” together as apprentice solicitors, about 40 years ago, in a firm in Cork. He enlightened members that he had had the unique experience of seeing me in my underwear, but assured them that they were unlikely to have that experience!
Context is everything. At the time, I was auditor of the Solicitors Apprentices Debating Society of Ireland (SADSI). Meetings were on a Wednesday, in Dublin at 7pm. By permission of my Master, I was allowed to leave the office in Cork at 4pm to drive to Dublin for the meetings. I had to change into a dress suit before leaving, so that is the context. (FYI, I am the only person in the history of SADSI to have managed to win the Gold and Silver SADSI medals in the same society year, but that story is for another time.)
An interesting observation was that now that complaints against solicitors are made to the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, the number has jumped, presumably because of the profile gained from being in the launch phase of the new process.
A common complaint among members of the Law Society (and indeed other organisations) is a “what have the Romans ever done for us”-like complaint about their representative body and governing council, but even the first meeting enlightened me as to the many, many areas in which the Council is working hard to protect and represent the interests of members.
Having been an active member of the alternative dispute resolution and professional indemnity insurance committees for the past few years, I have been appointed by Council to act as the vice-chairperson of the professional indemnity insurance committee for the coming year.
I have also been appointed to the Curriculum Development Unit. I am certainly very interested in contributing to the work of the CDU, having completed a certificate in professional education with the Law Society earlier this year, a course I would enthusiastically and highly recommend to anyone in any line of business. It teaches you vital communication skills you do not know you do not have.
After a very pleasant but hurried lunch, I went back to the CIArb Conciliation course where, even as an old dog, I learned a few new tricks.
Friday evening saw me back in the President’s Hall in the Law Society attending the CIArb Annual Dinner. The guest speaker was Jack Kavanagh who, diving into an oncoming wave at age 20, just after he finished his first year in college, collided with a hidden sandbank and was instantly paralysed, but has gone on to establish a new career path.
Saturday, I had a very interesting and challenging day at the Irish Medical Organisation Conference on “Medical Negligence - The Case for Reform”.
The day started with Lorraine Reilly from Loughrea, a mother of four, but of whom only two are living, who with amazing dignity & quiet spoken composure spoke about how she lost 2 baby girls, two years apart, due to medical negligence each time, followed by cover up, denial of records, and only after hideously expensive litigation, the truth emerged. Chilling is the word to describe her story.
Saturday evening saw me return to Cork for the Rémy Martin Cork Business Awards 2019, where my partner John Lane and I received the “glad tidings” that we were recognised as a Cork Law Firm of the Year, which just goes to show that you do not have to be the biggest to be recognised as one of the best.
As for Sunday, they do not call it a day of rest for nothing.