Monday, July 4, 2011

Law Society rejects calls to ban ‘Chinese walls’ | The Post

The Law Society is to consider the issues of ‘Chinese walls’ and residential property undertakings by solicitors, but has rejected efforts by Mayo solicitors to push through a general ban, writes Kieron Wood.

Chinese walls are a practice that allows major firms to act for opposing clients.

More than 100 members of the Mayo Solicitors Bar Association (MSBA) petitioned the society for a special general meeting of the profession to discuss a ban. But Law Society president John Costello, in an e-bulletin to all solicitors, said the Council of the Law Society believed that the issues were ‘‘too complex and nuanced to lend themselves easily’’ to general motions.

Costello said a general meeting or postal ballot that aimed to direct the council to exercise regulatory functions in any particular way was outside the power of a general meeting of solicitors.

About 200 solicitors from all over the country attended the meeting in Blackhall Place last Thursday night. Evan O’Dwyer, president of The Mayo Solicitors Bar Association, said about 40 lawyers from Dublin, Wexford, Roscommon and Mayo spoke at the ‘‘very robust’’ three-hour meeting.

‘‘The Mayo solicitors expressed frustration that this was an initiative coming from the bottom up," said O’Dwyer.

‘‘It shouldn’t have come to this, that we had to bring the issues to the fore. There was concern expressed that the Law Society was afraid to stand upto the big five firms.

We wanted to direct the council to do A, B and C, but it turned out to be just a general discussion."

The Law Society has now reconvened its task force on undertakings to deal with the issue of domestic property undertakings. A task force on the issue of Chinese walls will be headed by Catherine Treacy, who retired recently as chief executive of the Property Registration Authority.

Following a scheduled meeting of the Law Society Council last Friday, director general Ken Murphy said: ‘‘The council was already dealing with these matters before they were raised by the Mayo solicitors. All matters where the Law Society is making regulations must proceed by detailed consultation before any decision is made."

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