New Irish legal watchdog hindered by deadlines

The State’s new watchdog for the legal professions has warned its work is being frustrated by the requirement to meet deadlines set out in its grounding legislation.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) has called for changes to the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 to allow it to fulfil its statutory role to oversee services provided by solicitors and barristers.

The authority claimed the “hard wiring” of the legislation which provides for the automatic triggering of certain actions without due consideration of the resources and infrastructure required to implement them was “unhelpful”.

“The establishment of the LSRA as a fully functioning regulatory body has been delayed due to the requirement to meet statutorily mandated deadlines that run throughout the Act,” the LSRA said.

It is understood officials have been concerned about the requirement to deliver a series of mandatory public consultations, reports and actions within set timelines.

The watchdog claimed such deadlines were “restrictive, resource intensive and not conducive to the ordered roll-out of its regulatory functions.”

The findings are contained in a new review of the operation of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.

The LSRA said legislative changes were necessary to ensure the funding model envisaged by the Act would operate to provide sufficient and sustainable funding that would allow it to carry out its oversight work.

The legal services watchdog is expected to be self-funding from a new levy which will be imposed on all registered barristers and solicitors.

However, a consultant’s report has warned that it is likely to operate in deficit in its early years with “an increasing reliance” on government funding to fulfil its mandate.

The LSRA has signalled it hopes to start accepting complaints from members of the public against solicitors and barrister from October 2019.

The watchdog has made a total of 42 recommendations for amendments to the legislation to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

A spokesman for Mr Flanagan said the minister and his officials were giving “detailed and open consideration” to the LSRA’s recommendations.


Education and Training in Ireland

In response to the report on Education and Training in Ireland published on 19 November by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA), the Law Society of Ireland has launched the Peart Commission Report, developed by an expert group chaired by Mr Justice Michael Peart of the Court of Appeal.

The report contains 30 recommendations setting out a vision for the future of solicitor training in Ireland. Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy said, ‘training solicitors to meet any and all challenges they will face in their careers is some of the most important work the Law Society does. Mr Murphy explained, ‘implementing the Peart Commission recommendations will have several benefits. It will further increase access to the profession for trainees across diverse educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds and ensure the Law Society maintains its prominent position as an innovative professional legal educator globally.’ He added, ‘the Law Society’s education model is deeply rooted in the public interest and focussed on the future.’

Law Society Report Available Here

LSRA Report Available Here*

*This report was required by the Legal Services Act 2015 and is the first step in a comprehensive review which will involve further public consultation in 2019.

Legal Services Regulatory Authority in Ireland: seeking views on education and training

The Irish Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) invites submissions as part of a public consultation prior to a report to the Minister for Justice and Equality on the education and training arrangements in the State for legal practitioners.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority was established on 1 October 2016 and is responsible for the regulation of the legal profession and ensuring that standards in legal services are maintained and improved.  Under section 34(1)(a) of the Legal Services Regulation Act, 2015, the LSRA is conducting  a public consultation as part of  its preparation of  a report to the Minister in relation to the initial and continuous education and training of legal practitioners (solicitors and barristers).

The consultation is seeking views from a wide range of organisations and individuals. The LSRA is interested to hear not only from those who are directly involved in legal practitioner education and training, as providers or recipients; but also from employers and clients who are ‘users’ of those emerging from the system.

The LSRA is also interested in views on whether there are any potential drivers for change which are external to the legal sector (e.g economic, social or technological) and which might suggest a changing need for the type, initial standard of qualification or content of training. Responses which provide insight into the experience of other professions and jurisdictions would also be useful.

Members of the public or other interested parties wishing to contribute should send a written submission as soon as possible but in any event to be received no later than 15 June 2018.

Link to the full consultation

Find out more about this Review: Link to Legal Practitioner Education & Training Review website

Focus on Ireland: Legal Services Act 2015 Briefing

Background to the Act

In Ireland the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 has been enacted primarily to establish a new Legal Services Regulatory Authority for all legal practitioners, update the legal costs system and allow possible future introduction of new business structures for the provision of legal services, including legal partnerships (solicitors and barristers), multi-disciplinary practices (legal practitioners and non-legal practitioners) and limited liability partnerships for legal practitioners.

Implementation progress

So far, only certain sections of the Act have been commenced to allow the establishment of the Authority (as at 1 October 2016) and consultation and reports on the proposed new legal services structures. Further parts of the Act will be commenced on a phased basis, including provisions dealing with the Authority’s regulatory powers and legal costs. The Authority is still very much in its establishment phase and commencement of its regulatory powers is not expected in the near future.

The Law Society of Ireland will retain all of its regulatory functions, with the exception of complaints and regulation of advertising, and will be subject to oversight by the Authority. The Law Society will continue to issue practising certificates, regulate professional indemnity insurance, maintain the fund which compensates clients for losses resulting from dishonesty, inspect solicitor firms for compliance with accounts regulations and anti-money laundering obligations, take disciplinary and court cases against solicitors in relation to financial regulatory matters, and handle complaints against solicitors until such time as the Authority’s complaints system becomes operational.

Law Society’s response

The Law Society has taken a proactive approach to the introduction of the Act, including working on a programme of information and education to help the solicitors’ profession to prepare for the changes that are on the way, provision of submissions to the Authority on matters put out for consultation, and frequent meetings with the Authority to establish a productive and useful working relationship.

John Elliot, Registrar of Solicitors and Director of Regulation, Law Society of Ireland