A life in law: Newry solicitor looks back on his 40 years in the legal
Rory McShane is one of Northern Ireland’s leading legal professionals with over 40 years in private practice as a solicitor, former President, Treasurer and serving Council member of the Law Society of Northern Ireland. His reputation and career is well known to many.
Rory McShane has worked in the legal profession for over 40 years
After 40 years in business, Newry Times took the opportunity to ask him about his career, how things have changed and what does the future hold?
We began with a look back on his career.
Newry Times: Did you always want to be a solicitor?
Rory: Not initially. Back in 1970 I was studying for a Post-graduate Diploma in Social Studies at Queens University in Belfast and at the time I was heavily involved with the Civil Rights campaign.
Whilst justice and equality issues were very much on my mind it wasn’t until a friend of my father, who was a solicitor, approached him and indicated that he had a vacancy for an apprentice, that I actually thought maybe this is the direction I should go in. At that time it was a fantastic opportunity which I immediately grabbed with both hands.
I went back to Queens University and undertook my apprenticeship, qualifying in 1973 and thereafter I immediately set up my own practice which in those days you could do but you can’t do that now. I think I still hold the record for youngest solicitor in Northern Ireland to set up on their own.
Newry Times: What changes have you seen in your 40+ years as a solicitor?
Rory: There’s no doubting that there has been enormous changes to the solicitor profession, not least the number of people wanting to enter the profession. It is remarkable to think then when I qualified in 1973, there were approximately 26 who qualified in my year, and only two were women.
Happily that situation has now changed with more women now entering the solicitor profession as evidenced by the most recent intake of trainee solicitors where there were 80 women to 24 men undertaking professional training. That is indeed a very positive development and reflects an ever changing solicitor profession.
Whilst there has been increases in certain areas of practice I have also noticed a significant decline over the years in personal injury litigation. Very few cases seem to reach the Courts now and most cases seem to be settled without court proceedings which is very concerning as in my view victims of accidents are being undercompensated.
Of course the various recessions that have occurred over the last number of years have had a huge impact on the conveyancing and commercial sector. Since 2008 we have had to endure the ongoing economic downturn on our businesses and it is only now in 2016 that I see things picking up again.
Newry Times: Are you optimistic about the future?
Rory: I am optimistic about the future but a little concerned that the public often undervalue the role of their local solicitor. Northern Ireland has come out of a period of significant change, not least in the public feeling empowered to seek legal remedies to their problems.
It is very important that with continuing high levels of social deprivation and inequality our community needs a strong independent legal profession to fight their corner and ensure access to justice for all.
Newry Times: Do you think there is still a need for the local solicitor?
Rory: Yes I do and the role of a local solicitor remains vital and clients have a great loyalty to the “family solicitor”. After 40 years in legal practice I understand the significant role that a solicitor plays within the local community beyond that of just a legal advisor.
It is the local solicitor who is at the very epicentre of the local community offering legal advice but also acting in capacities often overlooked from School board members, to local chamber of commerce members to providing local employment. They are as familiar and invaluable to the local community as that of the local GP.
The connection with the community and the partnership rewards that this brings is as important today as ever. Let’s not forget that Corporate Social Responsibility wasn’t invented by big firms but rather they inherited the template invented by local solicitor firms.
Newry Times: Surely the needs of the client have changed – is it more difficult to keep and find new clients?
Rory: The needs of clients have not changed as the same issues and problems are faced by individual, commercial and business clients. The difference is that the issues are now more complex than ever from employment law to gender rights.
Newry Times: Newry has developed into a modern and vibrant city, do you still consider it home?
Rory: Newry has seen huge changes over the years and the granting of city status has been very important. However there are times when it acts less like a city and more like a small town. That mindset needs to go as we move forward to realise the opportunities which do exist including investment and redevelopment. It is encouraging to see that the local Council has now developed a strategy in this regard.
Newry Times: How has technology affected your business?
Rory: We were one of the first solicitor firms in Northern Ireland to embrace new technological systems and communication platforms and we have maintained this always with a view of ensuring we are delivering and communicating in the interests of our clients. New technology should be embraced as a means of making practices more efficient and delivering better service to clients.
Newry Times: You started your practice in 1973, do you still have the same zeal and enthusiasm for the job?
Rory: After 43 years I have to say I still have the same enthusiasm for the job. I feel I have more knowledge about the law now than ever before and that allows me to advise clients across a wide number of areas.
Newry Times: Your daughter has joined the practice, is it difficult to be the boss and dad?
Rory: I am not sure about the relationship of boss and dad. I sometimes wonder if Aoife is the boss and I am the junior partner. There is nothing wrong with a family firm as this country is built on it.
Newry Times: As a business what pressures do you see for the future?
Rory: As a local business the immediate pressures almost relate to overheads from the cost of insurances which continue to increase, cost of local rates which have gone up and this impacts on our overheads on a day to day basis.
Newry Times: What do you think local politicians can do to help business?
Rory: Local politicians must begin to think business. There has been a great emphasis recently on the protection of welfare benefits. While this is important and the needs of vulnerable people in our society need to be protected, nevertheless Northern Ireland will not progress unless we can grow the private sector.
Newry Times: Have you thought about retiring?
Rory: Retiring? As Alex Ferguson once said, that’s something for young people!
Source : Newry Times