LEGAL costs for settling compensation claims with victims of abuse in residential institutions have now risen to €140.8 million, according to the latest figures. Half a dozen solicitors' firms each cleared more than €1 million a year for their work.

The figures are contained in the annual report of the Residential Institutions Redress Board for 2008.

For every €1 given to an abuse victim, 20 cent is now being eaten up in legal costs and administration, the report concedes.

Legal costs in 2008 alone came to €27.62 million, of which only €1.23 million related to actual court proceedings with the rest paid out for private hearings.

Some legal firms have made a fortune from the Redress Board, with six companies clearing more than €1 million in 2008.

The firm with most cases on its books was Peter McDonnell and Associates, which received €2.82 million for 351 cases.

This was not the highest-earning company, however. Michael E Hanahoe Solicitors got €3.02 million for 186 cases, some of which are thought to have gone to the High Court.

Two other firms earned more than €2 million: Byrnes Carolan Cunningham got €2.29 million for 219 cases, and Murphy English and Co was paid €2.46 million for 167 cases.

Another two firms also cleared seven-figure sums. Burns Kelly Corrigan received €1.5 million for its work on 196 cases and Lavelle Coleman got €1.04 million for 107 cases.