Why this particular solicitor will not be going virtual any time soon!

Posted by Admin
on February 21, 2021

As a business owner and practitioner, my immediate feeling when Covid19 struck in February 2020, was one of panic and fear.  Visions of the economic crash of 2008 clouded my mind again, when I would regularly lie awake at night worrying about being able to pay the bills. After recovering from this downturn, I was just beginning to feel hopeful and relaxed again.  I had opened another office in early February and developed a new website.  I had hired more staff and my loans were  manageable.

When the news of the first lockdown happened, I started imagining the worst.  Would business dry up, how would I pay wages, would I have to lay off staff.

My business is providing legal services.  I am a solicitor with a law firm based in Dooradoyle, Limerick and Castletroy, Limerick.  A solicitors office in many ways is like any other business with staff to pay, rent to pay, rates, and professional fees. Our business depends on clients to survive.  Our client base is primarily private client.  This means we concentrate on legal issues that affect people’s day to day lives more so than issues affecting corporations.  Our clients are made up of individuals buying and selling property, individuals with family law issues, those who want to make Wills and those who have a personal injury case or employment law matter. We would also do leases and franchise agreements for small businesses and assist them with contracts.  I would say our type of practice is representative of the majority of firms in the country. The ethos of the practice has always been to deliver a superior professional service with kindness and the personal touch.   

There are 11 people working in my practice, a mixture of solicitors and support staff.  The majority of employees in the office have young children of school going age and both lockdowns have been quite difficult in terms of staffing the office, keeping cases progressed and having to change our mindset from meeting every client in person to meeting clients over Zoom.  Solicitors are deemed key workers under Covid guidelines but due to a lack of childcare it is not possible for all of us to attend the office on a full time basis.  What we struggled with the most was not the technology, our office is well set up for us to work remotely.  The main problem encountered by my team was that we were not able to meet clients in person like we used to. 

Personally, I like to meet clients face to face.   I do not think that Zoom can replace the face to face meeting.  Take for instance, an initial family law consultation.  It can often take months or even years for people to work up the courage to engage a solicitor in a family law matter.  This could be because they are hoping things at home will change or that it is better to wait until the children get older or their spouse has threatened that if they do make a move towards separating that they will loose contact with the children or be financially in a precarious position.  As a solicitor, I see my role when I meet family law clients for the first time as someone who can provide guidance on the legal options but also someone who can offer reassurance.  When a client is sitting across from me I can see clearly not only their facial movements ( sadness, worry, doubt ) but I can also see their entire body language.  I can see them shaking their legs, twisting their hands, taking notes. More importantly however they know that they are in a safe place, it is just me and them in the consult room.  With Zoom, and especially with spouses working from home it can be hard to make a Zoom call happen.  I find when I am on Zoom it is often the case that the client is looking behind them the entire time for fear that they will caught discussing matters with their solicitor.  With an in person appointment you can also introduce them to members of your team that they may be encountering in emails or phone calls.  This also helps put them at ease.  On top of all this many clients are not computer literate.  Some do not have access to a computer or smart phone.

I will give a further example of an elderly person attending to make a Will.  Particularly during the first lockdown we had a number of elderly people contact us about making Wills.  Some just turned up at our door.  It was very apparent to me that they were frightened of contracting covid.   Many of these clients did not know how to work with zoom and did not possess a smart phone or other device.  We were aware that many solicitors were making Wills for people in their cars or through the windows of their house but my colleagues and I were not happy to proceed on this basis.  I am not saying that this approach would not be suitable for some clients but we felt more comfortable sitting ( socially distant ) with the client to take their instructions.  One client remarked that his son brought him to the appointment and he didn’t want to sit in the car with his son as there were issues.  Another felt he could not openly discuss concerns he had if I met him at his house ( which he shared with other family members). 

What prompted me to write this blog was that I was reading about other practitioners experiences of working from home.  These experiences seemed to be largely positive and the consensus was that the physical office was more or less redundant.  Examining these views more closely, I think a lot of the posts came from firms that were largely corporate based and I felt that the view of the the private practitioner should be advanced.  I am not saying that there isn’t a place for zoom or working from home.  We use Zoom but what I am saying is that many clients need and appreciate the face to face meeting, staff need to see each other for moral and collaboration on cases.  I can see a future for legal practices like my own where there will be a mixture of virtual and in office.  I think after the lockdown many practitioners will be glad to return to their offices and for routines to re-established. 

Continue Reading...

Wills and Power of Attorney

Posted by Admin
on October 26, 2020

This week our office received a call from a couple wanting to discuss making their Wills.  The couple resided in the country side and were unable to attend the office in person.  Grainne Arkins, one of our Wills and Probate solicitors visited them later in the week to discuss their concerns. 

1.   The couple had the following assets

 – A family home that was mortgage free 

 – Money in bank accounts  

2.    The couple had three grown up children.  After discussion Grainne ascertained that one of their children, a daughter was unmarried and lived with them in the house.  Another son was married with children in another county.   He was financially secure.  Their other son lived in rented accommodation nearby and worked sporadically.  

3.     After teasing through the issues in a gentle manner Grainne identified their concerns, as follows:    

–  They wanted their daughter to have the house on their passing.  She looked after them on a day to day basis and they felt this was the right thing to do.  

–  they wanted some money to go to their son that was married but they felt they had kind of looked after him already as they had contributed towards a house deposit for him already.

– They wanted their other son to be provided for but were afraid that as he had addiction issues that if he got his hands on a large sum of money that this would not be good for him.  

4.  The more the couple spoke the more Grainne felt that maybe there was something else worrying them.  Eventually the wife disclosed that she had been diagnosed with dementia.  It was in the early stages but would inevitably get worse. Normally, she was the one that would have taken care of matters like paying the bills, driving to medical appointments, organising work men etc. She felt that if the dementia got worse her husband would not be in position to deal with financial and health care matters as he was unwell himself.  She wondered how she would deal with their affairs going forward.  

After considering the matters in detail Grainne gave the following advice:

1. The couple would leave the house to their daughter on their death.

2. The couple would leave a specific amount of money to their married son and grand children.

3. A trust would be set up which would pay out an annual sum to their other son.

4. Both the husband and the wife would execute an Enduring Power of Attorney which would allow their daughter to manage their affairs should they become unable to do so.

Our Solicitors are happy to visit you in your home, nursing home or hospital should you wish to discuss putting your affairs in order. We are experienced Solicitors who bring a practical and common sense approach to situations. You can talk to us without any obligation if you have a query. Phone 061 303311.

Continue Reading...

5 reasons why you should make your Will

Posted by Admin
on July 8, 2020

Given the uncertain times we now find ourselves living in as a result of CODID 19, it is more important than ever to make a Will. Dying without making a Will can cause significant problems for the people you leave behind and should be avoided at all costs.
A Will is a must for at least five good reasons:

1. First and foremost, a Will puts you in control. You decide who gets what and when. Without A Will, people outside of your family will not receive anything or members of your family may not receive what you would have wished for them to inherit.

2. It will save money: It is often quicker, cheaper and less stressful to administer an Estate where there is a will. A Will allows you to minimise the taxes your children or other beneficiaries may have to pay.

3. Without a Will, the fate of your assets, and your family will be determined by the law of intestacy and that can produce undesirable results. Your grandchildren could miss out if you die intestate as your assets will pass to a surviving spouse and children meaning the generation after will not benefit. With a Will you can allocate assets to go to grandchildren and you can appoint Trustees to manage their financial affairs until they are able to manage their assets themselves.

4. Without a Will, you cannot leave contributions to a charity or church. Only a Will can specify how much money you wish to leave to your favourite charity. This is more important now given that donations to charities have fallen significantly.

5. You can nominate someone to act as a guardian for your minor children under the age of 18. Without a Will, you might end up with people you would not have chosen to have the legal responsibility for their welfare.

• Please do not leave anything to chance- get in touch with Ms. Alva Cronin of Martina Murphy Solicitors today for information regarding our Wills Service. We can professional draft your Will for you or aid you in reviewing your existing Will.

• To make an appointment or simply speak to a member of the team, please call us on 061 303311 or email info@martinamurphy.ie

Alva Cronin, Associate Partner
Continue Reading...

Family Law – Will Covid-19 affect your maintenance rights?

Posted by Admin
on March 24, 2020

I am writing this blog in response to a number of queries received by the office recently. I hope the below Q & A will help answer your questions. If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact Martina Murphy on 061-303311 or email martina@martinamurphy.ie.

Q. My children’s father has reduced the amount of maintenance he has paying me. He has been laid off temporarily and says he has bills to pay. What can I do – my children and I depend on that weekly sum?

Eventhough we are in unusual times, I would suggest that the last thing that should be cut is the maintenance payment. Courts generally treat maintenance as a priority which must be paid above all other financial commitments. The government has introduced financial measures to assist people who have been laid off and every effort should be made by your ex to pay the maintenance. It may be acceptable for the maintenance to be reduced marginally but it cannot be unilaterally stopped. Just because there is a covid crisis does not mean that children don’t need to be provided for.

Unfortunately the courts are not sitting at the moment save in exceptional circumstances and therefore it is not possible currently to bring your case to the attention of the courts. What we can do however is write to your children’s father advising him of his obligations and lodge an application with the court in regard to maintenance which will be heard as soon as the courts resume.

If the maintenance is stopped or reduced unnecessarily will the courts backdate it?

Yes they will.

Does it matter if I have an Order for maintenance or just an agreement for maintenance?

Yes and no. It is preferable if there is a court order in place as the maintenance amount has been adjudicated by the Judge to be fair. If however you and your ex never went to court and had agreed a figure between you and he/she has paying this consistently and you were relying on it then the Judge would deem this to be setting a precedent. This means the Judge would likely suggest that this figure continues to be paid.

What happens if the maintenance stops entirely? What can I do – I do not work so do not qualify for the €350 payment.

Please contact your local community welfare officer who maybe able to give you an emergency lump sum or other assistance.

Continue Reading...

Newsletter – Issue 1, Spring 2018

Posted by Admin
on March 24, 2018

2018 is upon us and with it comes the promise of growth and change. As part of our expansion we are excited to launch Martina Murphy Solicitors Quarterly Newsletter (PDF | HTML).

We have specifically designed it to provide clients with up to date practical legal information pertaining to their day to day lives. Whether you are an individual or a small business, we hope there will be something useful for you to peruse.

If you find it useful and think it may benefit someone else you know please share it using the forward link below. If you would like us to address any particular area of law in our next Newsletter, which will be published in Q3’18, please do let us know.

Best wishes,
Martina Murphy Solicitors

Continue Reading...

Limerick Start-up Weekend Sponsor

Posted by Admin
on May 14, 2015

Martina Murphy Solicitors are proud to be nominated as official legal sponsors of Limerick Start-up Weekend 2015.

This is a fantastic initiative to encourage and assist start-up businesses.
We are thrilled to be able to do our bit to support our local community.
Best of luck to all those taking part.

If you would like to know more about how our firm can help your business then please contact Martina Murphy on 061-303311 or info@martinamurphy.ie

Continue Reading...

Martina Murphy Solicitors Standards Award

Posted by Admin
on March 22, 2015
Legal Quality Assurance Standard Logo
We are pleased to announce that Martina Murphy Solicitors has been awarded the prestigious Legal Quality Assurance Standard.

Martina Murphy Solicitors is one of a few practices in the Munster region to have met and achieved this high standard.

This award is given to firms that achieve the highest standards for:

  • the quality of the work provided
  • the manner in which the practice is managed
  • the service provided to their clients
Continue Reading...

Changes to Family Law

Posted by Admin
on March 5, 2015

Changes to Family Law:

Unmarried fathers who have lived with the mother of their child for more than a year will have automatic guardianship rights under sweeping changes to Family Law.

The landmark legislation will, for the first time, give unmarried fathers legal rights to access to their children despite being separated from the children’s mother. Only mothers currently have guaranteed guardianship of a child born outside of marriage and fathers can be forced to engage in lengthy legal battles to get access to their child.

The new rules are contained in the Governments Children and Family Relationships Bill. Step parents and the parent’s co-habiting partner will be able to apply for guardianship if they have shared caring responsibilities for a child for more than two years. In these cases guardianship will be limited to day to day decisions while major issues regarding residence, religion and education will be the sole responsibility of the biological parent. Grandparents will also see increased rights.

For more information on the changes please contact Martina Murphy.

Continue Reading...

Company -v- Sole Trader

Posted by Admin
on June 13, 2011

The first question any person thinking of setting up a new business should ask is whether they will set it up as a sole trader or whether they will form a limited liability company to run the business on their behalf.

There are key advantages and disadvantages to each and it is worth taking the time deciding
which kind of business entity you wish to set up at the outset.

In this article I will deal with the legal points involved but anyone setting up a business and deciding which route to take should also seek the advice of their accountant.
Read more…Company -v- Sole Trader

Continue Reading...

The Dawning of a New Era in Family Law

Posted by Admin
on June 13, 2011

One could say that the signing into law of the Civil Partnership Act, 2010 marks the end of an era in Ireland where only married couples of the opposite sex were afforded rights and duties under our legislation.

The signing into law of the Civil Partnership Act 2010 marks a milestone in family law for this country, expanding rights and duties to couples of the same sex and also offering a redress scheme to those persons who are in a co-habiting arrangement.
Read more…The Dawning of a New Era in Family Law

Continue Reading...