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17 June 2019

Woman law pioneer honored for lifetime achievement

Legal profession gathered in Dublin for Irish Law Awards, but the real stars of the show were a retired judge and counsel in controversial cervical smear case.

By Dr David Cowan

The Hon Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness Gazette.ie

A lifetime achievement award was given to retired Irish judge, The Hon Ms Justice Catherine McGuinness. The award, introduced by Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society of Ireland, was given in recognition of her remarkable contribution to the legal profession in Ireland over the last 40 years.

Female pioneer

Justice McGuinness, aged 84, was only called to the bar at age 42 but became one of the great female pioneers in law. Shr served as a judge of the Supreme Court (2000 to 2006), Judge of the High Court (1996 to 2000), Judge of the Circuit Court (1994 to 1996) and a Senator for the University of Dublin (1979 to 1981, and 1983 and 1987). A special merit award was presented to Cian O'Carroll of County Tipperary firm Cian O'Carroll Solicitors, a specialist in complex medical negligence and serious personal injury cases. The firm providing of legal representation in the Irish CervicalCheck scandal, in a campaign led by Vicky Phelan, a mother of two from Co Limerick who is dying of cervical cancer. In the case, settled by a High Court action for €2.5 million, Ms Phelan had a negative test initially and was subsequently diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2014, but did not learn of a review of her results until 2017.

Reflecting trends

Over 100 Irish law firms, legal practitioners and in-house legal teams attended the eighth annual black tie gala Travelers Irish Law Awards. The awards set out to identify, commend and honour excellence and achievement in Irish Law, and showcase the best of Irish law firms, legal practitioners and in-house legal teams throughout the four provinces of Ireland. Top spot of law firm of the year went to Philip Lee, one of Ireland’s leading and fastest growing commercial law firms who also have offices in London, San Francisco and Brussels. The distinguished title of 'lawyer of the year' was awarded to Sinead Lucey from FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres). Apart from a swathe of industry awards, academia and publishing were also recognised, with awards to best law school, new book and a student giving a breadth of coverage most awards don’t offer. New categories introduced reflected some the trends in the profession. There were new awards for diversity & inclusion law firm of the year, personal injury/medical negligence law firm/lawyer of the year sponsored and pro bono/community law firm/lawyer of the year. The list of winners can be found here. Katherine O'Riordan, event director said, “The Irish Law Awards has become a huge success over the past 8 years,” and she noted “The standard this year was exceptionally high.”

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