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. 

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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

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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
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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.

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NPPR, Local Property Tax & Household Charge

Posted by ivanc
on October 7, 2013

NPPR

The Non Principal Private Residence charge was introduced in 2009 and was payable on all residential property where the owner had more than one residence. The liability date for this charge was the 31st March each year and if you were the owner of the property on that date and it was not your main and only residence you became liable to pay this charge of €200.00. The money was paid directly to the local authority and goes towards local community services. This charge has now been abolished and 2013 will be the last year this charge will be levied. It has now been replaced by the Local Property Tax however all outstanding NPPR charges still remain due. It is important that you pay any outstanding NPPR charges as they continue to accrue late fees and penalties until payment is made.

Local Property Tax

The Local Property Tax replaces the NPPR charge and the Household charge. This is a tax on all residential property and was introduced in 2013. This is a self assessment tax and is based on current market value on the liability date. However it is not just confined to home owners, if you hold a residential property under a 20+ year lease, a life interest or long term right of residence, or a person acting as a legal personal representative to an Estate then you too are also liable to pay this tax. If you are in rented accommodation and your lease is for less than 20 years it is your landlord who is liable to pay.

The liability date for 2013 was the 1st May, this meant that if you were the owner of the property on this date you were liable to pay for 2013. For the year 2014 the liability date will be the 1st November 2013 and every 1st November thereafter will be the liability date.

Exempt properties
If you are the owner of residential property which is not suitable for use as a dwelling on the liability date then you are not liable, however you should notify the Revenue Commissioners as soon as possible of this fact. You should note that even if you own a residential property that is exempt you still must file a return to Revenue.

Any new and previously unused properties that were purchased from a builder or developer between 1 January 2013 and 31 October 2016 will be exempt until the end of 2016 (even if sold again in this period). So if you buy a second hand house that was previously bought for the first time in this period you are not liable for LPT until 2017.

Valuing your property
As this is a self assessment tax you are free to value the property at price different to the allocated Revenue valuation. Revenue have provided guidance in relation to this on their website. You do not need to submit any supporting documentation with your return however you should retain copies of all your supporting documentation for reference later should Revenue query your valuation. If you do not submit a valuation Revenue will use their valuation as the rate payable. You should note that an authorised Officer of the Revenue Commissioners is legally entitled to enter your property for the purposes of inspecting your property if deemed necessary.

Selling your property
If you sell your property for example in July 2013 you are liable to pay the Local Property Tax for the year 2013. If you own a property on 1 November 2013 and subsequently sell it any time before 1 November 2014 you are liable to pay LPT for the year 2014. In general this payment should be made before the sale of the property closes.

Household charge

This was a charge of €100.00 introduced in 2012 and has since been abolished. Any outstanding charge and arrears will from the 31st July 2013 will form part of the Local Property Tax.

If you have any queries in regard to any of the above information or you need clarification on nay matter please do not hesitate to contact us on 061-303311 or info@martinamurphy.ie

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Issue of upwards only rent review clauses

Posted by ivanc
on October 7, 2013

Ickendel Limited –V- Bewley’s Café Grafton Street Limited, Respondent; [2013] IEHC 293
Date of Judgment 25th March 2013
Judgment of Mr. Justice Charleton

This case concerned the landmark building on Grafton Street, Dublin known as Bewley’s Oriental Café. The arbitrator who was appointed to review the rent referred the matter to the High Court and sought direction from the court as to the ambiguity of the clause.

The lease was entered into on the 22nd September 1987 and was for a term of 35 years, with rent reviews every five years. The rent was subsequently reviewed in 1992, 1997, 2002 and the last one was in 2007 during the height of the so called boom in the property market. This dispute arose when in 2012 the rent was due to be reviewed and Bewley’s sought a reduction in rent as opposed to an increase or stay as in previous reviews. In fact the rent had ballooned from it’s initial €213,000 to €1,463,964.

The lease was slightly ambiguous in it’s wording. Bewley’s argued that the initial rent in 1987 was to be a base line of which the rent could not go lower however the landlord argued the structure of the rent review clauses was such that it was ratcheted up step by step each review.

The Court in agreeing with Bewley’s allowed the rent to be reduced as there was ambiguity in the wording of the review clause that it could not be said with absolute certainty that rent was to be upwards only. What was clear was that the initial rent was to be a base line of which the rent could not go below.

The effects of this Judgment in terms of disputes between tenants and landlords over rent will mean that there will be room for negotiation when rent is up for review. Where previously thought that the rent review clause could only be reviewed upwards there is now a precedent set where rent may be lowered if the terms of the lease are ambiguous or where the rent is highly inflated and not a true reflect of open market value.

If you have a commercial premises and would like to discuss your rent review clauses please contact Martina Murphy on 061 303311 or info@martinamurphy.ie

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Symphsiotomy survivors reject Magdalene type redress scheme

Posted by ivanc
on October 7, 2013

Symphysiotomy is a surgical procedure whereby the pelvis is broken in order to allow easier delivery of a baby. The surgery increased the size of the pelvic area and thus allowed easier delivery of the baby. It became a routine procedure for women experiencing an obstructed labour and it is estimated that upwards of 1,500 women had the procedure here in Ireland between 1942 and the 1990’s. The procedure was often carried out without the mother’s knowledge or consent. As a result of this procedure many women suffered from incontinence, prolapsed organs, walking difficulties and chronic aches.

The Health Minister, James Reilly made a commitment to lifting the Statute of Limitations. The Statute of Limitations in Ireland is currently two years and therefore many women were not able to seek compensation as the time frame within which to initiate a claim had passed. The survivors of this procedure want the Statute lifted in order to allow them access to the courts to seek justice. Survivors of Symphysiotomy wants a legal settlement with the hospitals that performed the operations which should give over 200 women affected €250,000 to €450,000 depending on their injuries.

The real difficulty is in lifting the Statute of Limitations and the Minister has stated that he will write to the Attorney General to see whether it can be lifted. The Minister also suggested a negotiated mediation by a Judge rather than litigation as a possible solution saving time and money. Two groups, the Patient Focus and SOS Ltd have welcomed this as it would be less traumatic for the survivors and also help bring closure.

A report is due shortly on this issue. If you or someone you know has been affected by symphsiotomy please contact Martina Murphy on 061-303311 or info@martinamurphy.ie

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Irish Human Rights Commission call for statutory enquiry on Magdalene Laundries

Posted by Admin
on November 17, 2010

9th November 2010

The IHRC have today validated the evidence submitted by the survivor advocacy group Justice for Magdalenes (JFM) and have recommended that a statutory mechanism be established to investigate the matters advanced by the JFM and in appropriate cases to grant redress where warranted.

Any resident of a Laundry or familiy member of such a resident who would like to discuss their legal rights as a result of this development should contact Barry McLoughlin, Solicitor who has extensive experience before the Redress Board for a confidential and no obligation consultation on +353 61 303311

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