Ireland goes further than UK and unveils independent regulation of lawyers

Ireland: lawyers worried about impact of proposals on independence

The Republic of Ireland is to introduce completely independent regulation of the legal profession – and possibly fuse the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions – the Dublin government has announced.

The Legal Services Regulation Bill being published on Monday will meet several of the commitments to structural reform of the profession that Ireland gave to the EU and IMF as part of the country’s financial bail-out last December.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which will have a lay majority, will take over regulation from the Law Society and Bar Council of Ireland, who will pay for it through a levy.

The government rejected a 2006 recommendation from the Irish Competition Authority that it introduce an English-style arrangement, with an oversight regulator and full separation of regulatory and representative functions within the Law Society and Bar Council.

Among a series of other radical reforms that in some ways go further than those on the other side of the Irish Sea, the government has proposed an independent complaints and disciplinary structure, and an Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator, alongside requiring lawyers to provide far greater transparency over their costs.

The new authority will also “come up with proposals to advance more complex issues”, such as “unification of the two branches of the legal profession”, a separate profession of ‘conveyancers’, direct access to barristers, and barrister partnerships, partnerships between barristers and solicitors, and multi-disciplinary practices. There is no explicit reference in the material released so far to non-lawyer investment.

Justice minister Alan Shatter said: “Together, these provisions will promote competition and transparency in the organisation and provision of legal services in the state and in relation to legal costs. They will also create a single and independent point of call for those who wish to make complaints about legal services. The new bill sets out to better balance the respective interests of the public, consumers and legal professionals in their respective provision and consumption of legal services.”

The Law Society of Ireland has recently complained about the difficulties it experienced in meeting officials and that it had not been given any information about the contents of the bill.

Speaking on RTE One on Tuesday, the society’s chief executive, Ken Murphy, stressed that solicitors are not opposed to all change, but said: “It is striking the minister has gone for a model which the Competition Authority did not recommend [and] which was actually not followed in England and Wales. We’re concerned about the effect on the independence of the profession, which is a citizen’s right, and also we’re concerned about the cost of it. The legal profession is suffering badly economically at the moment; we don’t need additional costs of this kind.”

    Readers Comments

  • Niall Tierney says:

    I am a dual qualified English and Irish lawyer based in London and very much welcome this long overdue development.

    Far from curtailing the independence of the legal profession in Ireland, the changes will only enhance it.

    It is a bit rich for the Law Society to be concerned about citizens rights when it has in the past seriously let down Irish ciitzens by failing to rein in rogue solicitors.

    The template for independent legal regulation already exists in Ireland. Patent and Trade Mark attorneys in Ireland are independently regulated by the Controller of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, who is appointed by the State and not the profession. The Patent and Trade Mark profession have little say in how it is regulated and that is how it should be. It is comforting to know that this template will hopefully be followed for the regulation of Solicitors and Barristers.

  • john cuddy says:

    the profession of solicitor should be abolished. the profession of barrister should be abolished. the profession of lawyer should be created as in usa spain ect ect with independant regulation, the majority being lay people, 75%.

Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Loading animation