Monday 5 December 2016

Minister just an obedient poodle as solicitors prove a law unto themselves

Charles Lysaght

Published 29/11/2015 | 02:30

UNDER FIRE: Minister Frances Fitzgerald
UNDER FIRE: Minister Frances Fitzgerald

The Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, has been criticised by many, including her ungracious predecessor Alan Shatter, for caving into the legal profession and accepting amendments to the Legal Services Regulation Bill for which it lobbied. In fact, the bill was flawed from the beginning because it failed to amend provisions in the existing law that enable solicitors to overcharge their own clients.

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The protection offered to clients by the existence of competition between solicitors and by the right of clients to appeal to an officer of the court to assess fees remains sadly inadequate.

Competition is effective to protect consumers only if they are in a position to ascertain in advance which supplier of a service offers best value in quality of product and in price. The law requires a solicitor to quote a fee in advance where this is practicable. But the courts decided solicitors failing to comply with this law should suffer no penalty. They may still recover whatever fees they nominate subject to the right of the client to appeal to an officer of the court.

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