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.
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