Sunday 4 December 2016

Bill to regulate legal services is a Christmas turkey

Despite 100 new amendments to the Legal Services Regulatory Bill, it still fails to tackle legal costs

Published 22/11/2015 | 02:30

The Government has come in for scathing criticism in some quarters for not assuming control of the Law Society's €80m Compensation Fund, paid for by solicitors through an annual levy
The Government has come in for scathing criticism in some quarters for not assuming control of the Law Society's €80m Compensation Fund, paid for by solicitors through an annual levy

It has been billed as the most spectacular heist in the lifetime of this Dail - how the Government capitulated to the legal profession. It's a convenient, if partially true, narrative. However, it is also a lazy one that lets the Government, the largest purchaser of legal services in the State, off the hook for failing to ensure affordable access to justice.

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Last week, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald unveiled 100 new amendments to the Legal Services Regulation Bill. The bill, like many before it, will be guillotined like the proverbial Christmas turkey. The legal services bill was first introduced four years ago by former justice minister and family law solicitor Alan Shatter, whose relationship with the legal profession was - like many a contested divorce - somewhat acrimonious to say the least.

Mr Shatter, who led two referendum campaigns to reduce judges' pay (which worked) and to curb judicial independence (which didn't), introduced his mammoth bill with the crusading zeal of a poacher turned gamekeeper, and the pent up energy of an eager schoolboy waiting for a lifetime to become a government minister.

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