The Irish Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD, announced that the ”new Act is aimed to deliver real and lasting reform in the legal services areas, to benefit of the justice system, the consumer and the economy”.The Bill contains substantial provisions aimed to ”promote competition, help reduce legal costs in Ireland and support Ireland’s economic competitiveness”. Mr Fitzgerald detailed that the provisions:
- Strengthen the powers of the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority;
- Introduce and regulate new business models to get new Legal Partnerships (barrister/barrister and barrister/solicitor firms) up-and-running and introduce Limited Liability Partnerships;
- Provide new robust oversight powers for the Authority in relation to functions to be carried out by the Law Society;
- Introduce Pre-Action Protocols for medical negligence cases for the first time.
The new Bill furthermore:
- Established a Statutory Regulator of all Legal Practitioners for first time in history of State.
- Set down in law for the first times the statutory regulatory objectives and professional principles for legal services and legal practitioners.
- Subjected the Law Society to oversight of an independent statutory Regulator for the first time.
- Subjected Irish barristers to independent regulation for the first time in the history of the State.
- Allowed for the 100+ barristers who are operating at the moment in a regulatory limbo outside of the Law Library to be regulated for the first time.
- Introduced new Business Models to increase competition in legal services.
- Allowed for Legal Partnerships - so barristers can start up business either with other barristers or with solicitors in Legal Partnerships within a year of enactment of the Bill.
- Allowed barristers in employment to provide legal services to their employers including representing the employer in Court, tribunals etc.
- Overhauled the system for adjudication of legal costs and provisions regarding legal fees.
- Provided that complaints about legal practitioners will be dealt with by an independent statutory public body for the first time.
- Provided protection for the taxpayer from exposure to Compensation funds.
- Reformed the rules on Legal Services Advertising.