Thursday 17 October 2019

Legal profession's fees are too high, says Forfas

Sarah McCabe

A NEW report says the legal profession still restricts competition and that its prices are "extremely sticky" relative to other professions, and not reflective of the current economy.

Forfas, the Department of Enterprise policy body, says that while the cost of most business and professional services has fallen since 2006, legal costs have not dropped.

It says the Legal Services Bill currently making its way through the Dail needs a number of amendments.

The report recommends removing the two-tier system that divides barristers into junior and senior counsel.

About 12pc of Irish barristers are senior counsel according to the Bar Council, a position awarded by the Government to barristers who usually have over 10 to 15 years of experience.

The report says this distinction allows for higher fees to be charged by senior counsel, but does not offer a definitive guide as to the quality of the barrister in question.

The new report says that, to enhance competition, solicitors should be able to act as lead counsel when working with a barrister on a court case.

It criticises the high cost of transferring property – conveyancing – in Ireland and calls for a new class of conveyancing professionals to do the work instead of solicitors. That happened in the UK in 1987.

While noting a significant reduction in business costs in recent years, the report also found that Ireland's rate of income tax for high earners, at 52pc for employees and 55pc for the self-employed, is higher than most of its competitors.

Enterprise and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said this "damages inward investment and entrepreneurship, and makes too many people question whether they would be better off not working at all".

Irish Independent

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