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Lawyers are the only ones raising their fees

THE COST of getting advice from solicitors and barristers here is out of kilter with all other services, it's revealed.

Lawyers need to face up to reality and slash their prices experts said.

Instead, as every other profession has been dropping their fees, lawyers have upped them, according to the National Competitiveness Council (NCC).

That's despite the fact that many solicitors and barristers are out of work or struggling.

At a time when competition is at its highest however, the legal professionis acting like a monopoly like never before.

Almost all business-services prices dropped lower last year compared with 2006, but legal fees bucked the trend.

The chairman of the NCC, Dr Don Thornhill, said Ireland's "competitiveness scorecard" is generally improving but, although costs were coming down, Ireland was still a high-cost economy.

The NCC has outlined seven areas that need to be improved in the Irish economy.


Dr Thornhill said that the rising fees for legal issues could hamper growth.

"The worrying thing about legal costs going up comes as quite a lot of solicitors and lawyers are feeling the impact of the recession," he said.

"The worrying impact is that while costs are going up, employment activity is going down and that contrasts with other areas of business services where costs have fallen as the country has gone into recession."

The report is a detailed assessment of Ireland's competitive position compared with peer economies.

The report says that the overall cost of doing business in Ireland "relatively expensive compared to those of other countries with which we are competing".

Dr Thornhill said that exports are the one bright spot in the economy, including in indigenous industries such as food.

World Bank data has indicated that Ireland is the fourth most expensive in which to enforce a business contract.

Ireland also needs to push ahead with improvements in education standards, the NCC has urged.

Dr Thornhill said primary students spent long days in school but had a shorter school year, whereas international studies showed that the opposite brought the best results.

Employees are so far taking the right medicine to push economic growth, as there is an increase in productivity combined with lower wage costs.

"Productivity is the magic button that enables us to become more cost competitive. It means working smarter, it doesn't always mean pay coming down," said Dr Thornhill.