Cabinet set to discuss draft laws aimed at reducing legal costs

The reforms planned are viewed with apprehension by many in the legal world

 If Mr Shatter secures the Cabinet’s agreement for the amendments tomorrow, he plans to publish them later this week.

If Mr Shatter secures the Cabinet’s agreement for the amendments tomorrow, he plans to publish them later this week.

Mon, Jul 8, 2013, 01:00

The Cabinet is set to return tomorrow to draft laws aimed at reducing legal costs and overhauling the legal profession after a delay of more than a year

Although the EU/IMF troika has criticised the slow pace of the parliamentary debate on the law, only the first four of the 12 parts of the legislation will be taken by the Oireachtas justice committee when its discussions resume next week.

With the summer recess imminent, it will be autumn at the ealiest before the committee deals with the remaining eight parts of the legislation.

The reforms planned in the Legal Services Regulation Bill, which include the creation of barrister-solicitor and multi- disciplinarty partnerships, are viewed with apprehension by many in the legal world.

The professional body for barristers has claimed the overhaul would undermine the provision of justice and a survey of solicitors found most believed the law would not cut fees to clients. However, the spokeswoman for the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that looming amendments to the Bill will “put aside” many of the concerns about the independence of the legal professions and of the new regulatory authority.


Amendments
Ministers are scheduled at their weekly meeting tomorrow to discuss the amendments to the Bill, which was referred to the committee stage of the Dáil debate in February 2012.

The committee stage duly started in March 2012 but has been in effective suspension since, amid political discussion over the reform package. The debate is now scheduled to resume on Wednesday week.

If Mr Shatter secures the Cabinet’s agreement for the amendments tomorrow, he plans to publish them later his week.

The first four parts of the Bill deal with the formation of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, its regulatory fuctions relating to accounts and matters relating to the protection of clients of legal practitioners.

Mr Shatter’s spokeswoman said the forthcoming amendments aim to bolster the independence of the authority in terms of appointments to it and its functions.

Appointments will be made by nominating bodies and the need for ministerial consents in relation to its functions are being removed “to the utmost” degree.

“Similar changes are being made to enhance the independence of the appointment and functionality of the Complaints Committee and of the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal,” she said. “In addition, the complaints regime is now being front-loaded, at the request of the Minister, with several new provisions to encourage informal resolution where complaints relate to consumer-type matters or inadequate services rather than to matters of professional misconduct.”

Further technical refinements are planned in respect of the legal costs provisions to ensure maximum efficiency for the new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator.