‘Historic day for legal reform’ as Legal Services Regulation Bill passed

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald boasted of an “historic day for legal reform in Ireland” as she yesterday welcomed the passing of the Legal Services Regulation Bill through the Oireachtas.

Ms Fitzgerald said she looked forward to the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority coming into operation early next year.

She added: “This landmark bill will deliver real and lasting reform in legal services to the benefit of the entire justice system.

“The unprecedented series of reforms introduced by this Government will support equality of access to justice for all and will help reduce both delays and legal costs benefitting consumers, SME’s, the State and the economy as a whole.”

The bill introduces an independent statutory regulator for all legal practitioners, as well as an independent public complaints regime, a single new disciplinary tribunal for solicitors and barristers, new business models for legal practitioners and a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator to replace the Taxing Master’s Office.

The bill was beset with difficulties during the legislative process after it was extensively amended from its introduction in Autumn 2011.

Last-minute changes to the legislation were criticised as a capitulation to objections from the Law Society of Ireland and Bar Council of Ireland.

However, former Justice Minister Alan Shatter quelled some of Ms Fitzgerald’s critics when he told the Dáil that the final bill had achieved “85 per cent of what I set out to achieve in this legislation”.

Ms Fitzgerald thanked the officials of her Department and of the Offices of the Attorney General and of Parliamentary Counsel for their “dedicated, painstaking and diligent work in preparing this comprehensive body of reforming legislation”.

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