Legal fees sanctioned by State are ridiculous
There is no reason why the State should pay any lawyer more than €150,000 a year, writes VINCENT BROWNE
LESS THAN two weeks ago, on Friday, July 6th, the High Court agreed the freezing orders on the accounts of members of the family of Seán Quinn could be varied to allow €430,000 be paid to meet the family’s legal fees from May to July of this year.
The total fees for this three- month period came to €430,000, and of this, €135,000 was to be paid to a solicitor’s firm for 485 hours worked over six weeks, from May 12th to June 29th.
According to an Irish Times report of July 7th, those fees were based on hourly rates of €370 per partner, €282 for senior solicitors, €227 for solicitors and €97 for trainee solicitors. Further provision was made for the solicitors to be paid an additional sum up to €150,000 (net of VAT) for further work from this July up to early August.
Two senior counsel were each to be paid a brief fee of €20,000 plus “refreshers” of €4,000 per day.
A junior counsel was to be paid a brief fee of €12,500 with “refreshers” of €2,500 per day.
The two senior counsel who represented Seán Quinn snr, Seán Quinn jnr and Peter Darragh Quinn on June 26th, when judgment was delivered in contempt proceedings, were to get €3,000 each for that day.
Both senior counsel were to get another €4,000 each for representing the Quinns on June 29th, when the High Court made various coercive orders sought by the bank. Senior counsel and junior counsel were to get additional payments for work up to July 20th next.
The Irish Times reported that in relation to the bank’s bid for an order withdrawing reference of a jurisdictional issue to the European Court of Justice, the Quinns’ senior counsel brief fee was €10,000, while junior counsel’s brief fee was €6,000.
Because the funds from which these fees were to be paid are funds which, very probably, will become due to the State, it is us, the Irish people, who are paying these legal fees at a time when 450,000 people are living on the dole and hundreds of thousands are living on the minimum wage of €8.65 per hour.
By what criteria are barristers who sit in a court for perhaps a half an hour listening to a brief summary of a written judgment about to be distributed and a few brief applications and responses plus a conferral with their clients for, say, a further hour, entitled to a fee of €4,000 each for this ordeal? Admittedly they have to read the judgment, which would take them a further hour, say, but still?
What is this brief fee of €20,000? Is it likely that a senior counsel would have to spend a full week reading a brief and conferring with solicitors and clients? Say two weeks, €10,000 a week, or even three weeks at €6,666 a week? Who do they think they are – RTÉ radio/television presenters?