A total of 37 legal practitioners in Ireland will be permitted to use the title ‘Senior Counsel’ following the Government’s approval of recommendations from the Advisory Committee on the grant of Patents of Precedence. Approval was granted on the 15th June 2021, with the group made up of 25 barristers and 17 solicitors, who will be allowed to use the title.
Granting a Patent of Precedence, to a barrister, entitles them to be called to the Inner Bar and to use the title of Senior Counsel. In relation to a solicitor, it entitles them to use the title of Senior Counsel.
The Advisory Committee was established in April 2020 under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and is chaired by the Chief Justice. The 2015 Act allowed solicitors for the first time to apply to be granted Patents of Precedence. The Legal Services Regulatory Authority of Ireland provides administrative and secretarial support to the independent Advisory Committee on the Patents of Precedence.
This work has been prompted by the Roberton Review, an Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation in Scotland, and will provide evidence to assist the Scottish Government in determining how to take forward the recommendations made by that report. Led by Esther Roberton, that Review made a number of recommendations, including that there should be a single independent body to regulate the legal profession, set standards and handle complaints.
Building on work already done as part of the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) market study into the supply of legal services in England and Wales, this work will examine whether there is evidence of a lack of competition among legal services providers in Scotland, as was the case in England and Wales.
The research will also focus on:
the benefits of independent regulation of legal services in Scotland and whether the current institutional arrangement – where the bodies regulating the professions are also those representing and lobbying for them – dampens competition
the impact of the current legal services regulatory framework in Scotland on competition, particularly on innovation and the entry of new business models to the market
It is the CMA’s first Scotland-specific project since the expansion of its Edinburgh office last year to help the organisation better identify and resolve issues that harm Scottish consumers.
The Centre for Ethics and Law in the UCL Faculty of Laws is undertaking a fundamental review of the current regulatory framework for legal services, led by Honorary Professor Stephen Mayson.
The independent review is intended to explore the longer-term and related issues raised by the 2016 Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) market study, which concluded that the legal services sector is not working well for individual consumers and small businesses, and thatthe current regulatory framework is unsustainable in the long run. It called for a review of that framework to make it more flexible as well as targeted at areas of highest risk where regulation is most needed.
The review’s objectives will be to consider how the regulatory framework can best:
promote and preserve the public interest in the rule of law and the administration of justice;
maintain the attractiveness of the law of England & Wales for the governance of relationships and transactions and of our courts in the resolution of disputes;
enhance the global competitiveness of our lawyers and other providers of legal services;
reflect and respond flexibly to fast-changing market conditions being driven by innovation and advances in technology;
protect and promote consumers’ interests, particularly in access to effective, ethical, innovative and affordable legal services and to justice; and
lead the world in proportionate, risk-based and cost-effective regulation of legal services, consistent with the better regulation principles.
The review will reflect these objectives and consider how we can best ensure that our legal services remain of high quality and are effective, and that their regulation is proportionate and fit for purpose. It will also need to re-examine how to give the public much-needed transparency about the legal providers they use and the services they pay for, and ensure that they understand their options and the consequences of their choices.
Whatare the legal services that should be regulated? (Scope)
Whoshould be regulated for the provision of legal services? (Focus)
Howshould we regulate legal services? (Structure)
In pursuing its work, the review will seek to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and interested parties, including the CMA, the Legal Services Board, approved regulators, front-line regulators, representative bodies, consumers, the judiciary, practitioners, and providers of legal education and training.
It is now open for submissions in response to the working papers, and for meetings and discussions to explore the issues: to follow up, contact Professor Stephen Mayson.
Vulnerability to Legal Misconduct: Qualitative Study of Regulatory Decisions Involving Problem Lawyers and Their Clients
An emerging body of scholarship discusses ‘vulnerability’ as an antecedent of legal misconduct. One conceptualization of vulnerability indicates that an individual has greater susceptibility to risk of harm, and safeguards may protect against that risk of harm. This empirical study adds to the normative research with a qualitative analysis of 72 lawyers with multiple complaints and at least one hearing, paid financial misconduct claim, or striking from the roll (“problem lawyers”) in Victoria, Australia, between 2005 and 2015 through 311 regulatory decisions. We found that problem lawyers were disproportionately likely to be male, over age 45, and work in a sole or small practice. A quarter of these lawyers suffered from health impairments and among the clients harmed, half had cognitive impairments, were older age, or non-native English speakers. These findings underscore the need to better understand vulnerabilities to promote lawyer well-being, protect exposed clients, and reduce lapses in professionalism.