Irish lawyers applaud setting up of new body to run courts

Irish lawyers have welcomed a government decision to set up a new court service to take over the running of the courts from the much criticised Ministry of Justice.

An independent agency, headed by a chief executive, will be up and running by the end of the year.

It will be known as the Court Service and will be responsible for all court administration, including support for the judges, case management and the compilation of court lists.

The decision was based on the findings of a working party set up to examine the workings of the Irish court system, which was headed by supreme court judge Susan Denham.

Barristers and solicitors have had several run-ins with the Ministry of Justice over the last few years. Most recently barristers publicly protested against the delays in the payment of legal aid fees.

It is understood that around £200,000 of fees were owed, going back nine months, because of a shortage of computer capacity in the claims handling office.

A spokeswoman from the Irish Bar Council said: “Court Services will be better for the public and better for lawyers.”

Ken Murphy, secretary general of the Irish Law Society, said: “The present court management system is very run down and ramshackle. It has no plan or vision. We need a new body which is better equipped to cope with the pressures of the 20th century.”

US firms Chadbourne & Parke and Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts have revealed plans to set up shop in Singapore.

They will join three US and two UK firms which have already opened in the city state this year – Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom; Orricks Herrington & Sutcliffe; Stephenson Harwood; and Ashurst Morris Crisp.

The move means that in just a year the number of US firms with offices in Singapore will have almost doubled, from six to 11.

Jerome Katz, a partner in Chadbourne's New York office said that Singapore had become a very important area for project finance.

He said: “US law firms have had a very good reception in Singapore since they began to set up there and the rents are not as high as in Hong Kong. It would be logical for us to move into Singapore.”

A spokeswoman from Winthrops said the firm would be opening a Singapore office before the end of the year, headed by Hong Kong-based partner Bob Lin.

She said: “We have many clients in the region so the move is for their convenience.”

Arthur Fredston, senior partner at Winthrops, said: “There has been significant activity in Singapore, especially in mergers. We have many US-trained Chinese and Korean lawyers who can work there.”

Colin Fergus, a legal consultant at the Fergus partnership in New York said: “The US firms are quickly moving into Singapore because the investment banks have increased their operations out there.”

US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges has confirmed plans to set up shop in Hong Kong.

Maurice Allen, the firm's London partner said it was a natural for the firm to go to Hong Kong. He expects the office to open in 1998.