Tuesday 21 November 2017

Happy Christmas for the legal profession

Gavel
Gavel

Barristers are set for a happy Christmas after a key aspect of the State's plans to create more competition for businesses and consumers who use lawyers has been long fingered.

The legal eagles' joy has to do with a planned amendment to the Legal Services Bill. The bill, which is about creating more competition in the legal profession, has been long-delayed already, much to the annoyance of the bailout troika.

Now it has emerged that the Labour Party and Tanasite Eamon Gilmore have objected to an amendment to the bill to create a one-stop shop for consumers in which solicitors and barristers would work in the same practice, along with other professionals such as accountants and personal insolvency practitioners.

It is now almost a decade since the Competition Authority probed the legal profession and concluded there was a need for such multi-disciplinary practices. Similar reports preceded that one.

The lack of muti-disciplinary practices is something that adds to the cost for businesses and consumers taking legal actions, or defending them.

Consumer advocates have long argued that the current arrangement is bad for consumers but benefits lawyers in terms of the fees they can earn.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter seems to be on the side of businesses and consumers on this one.

So far the Bar Council has shown its ability to defend well its own practices and rules, not just those it represents in court. But will that remain the case? This battle between is worth watching.

Irish Independent

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