Monday 22 October 2018

Failed professions have 'lost right to self-regulate' - expert

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE professions have "failed the community bargain" and as a result have lost their right to self regulate, according to a leading researcher on the legal profession and globalisation of the law.

Professor John Flood of the University of Westminster said that to some extent, the professions - including lawyers - have "failed the community bargain".

"This is the bargain of not exploiting consumers and the market in exchange for self regulation," he said, adding that self regulation will "come back" in some respects.

Prof Flood was speaking today at a conference on plans to overhaul Ireland's legal sector at the UCD School of law.

Prof Flood said that when he looked at plans to handle complaints about lawyers in the Government's planned Legal Services Regulation Bill, he "couldn't think of a worse, more complicated procedure".

The United Kingdom, he said, had made the complaints procedures very simple, mirroring the complaints procedures in financial services which has one overarching ombudsman who acts as investigator, judge and jury.

Prof Flood told delegates including members of the Competition Authority, that a true "Maoist revolution" was taking place in legal services with new alternative business structures emerging such as 'hub and spoke' style operations and online firms.

"Ireland, you have a lot to look forward to. It will be a rocky ride, but I think you will have fun," he said.

James McCourt, President of the Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors,  said that he believed multi disciplinary partnerships

(MDPs) - one of the core aspects of the legal services bill - are a failed concept.

Mr McCourt said that the Society also opposed the fusing of the two branches of the profession.

Mr McCourt said that the retention of an independent referral bar is something that solicitors hold dear to their hearts.

"It [fusion] is something that we will resist and we will resist forever.

David Nolan SC, chairman of the Bar Council, the ruling body for the country's 2,000 barristers, said that it seemed "foolhardy" to bring in certain reforms as a matter of law without research.

Mr Nolan said that the Council was in favour of independent regulation and in favour of research undertaken into the regulatory impact of many of the changes including MDPs.

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