Gaelic alarm

The Irish Legal Services Regulation Bill has caused ructions over the future of the profession

Alan Shatter TD,
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence

Architect of the Legal Services Bill is Irish justice minister Alan Shatter, a career politician, having sat in the Irish parliament, or Dáil, from 1981 to 2002 and, more recently, since 2007 as a member of Fine Gael representing Dublin South. He is also a family solicitor and joined Gallagher Shatter Solicitors in 1976. Between 2002 and 2007 Shatter returned to the firm as a consultant.

He was appointed as justice minister in March 2011. Shatter previously acted as Fine Gael spokesperson for justice, among other front bench roles.

While in opposition he published more private members’ bills than any other deputy in Irish history, with legislation proposed on topics as varied as social reform, criminal law, international law, the environment and sport.

Reaction to the Legal Services Regulation Bill

Bar Council of Ireland: Has concerns over the structure of the regulatory authority and the potential effect of rising costs.

Also opposes multi-disciplinary partnerships.

“If partnerships are to be introduced, this will dramatically contract the available numbers of barristers and greatly restrict access to justice for those who cannot afford legal representation’” said Bar Council chair Paul O’Higgins SC. “[…] Prices will be driven upwards as partners, especially in niche areas of the law, can set their price to meet market demand, which will increase as access lessens.”

Law Society of Ireland: “The bill threatens every citizen’s right to receive advice from a legal profession that is free of improper interference and the direct control of government,” incoming president Donald Binchy told the Irish Law Society Gazette in its December 2011 issue. “It proposes a model of regulation of the profession that is unknown in any free democratic society.”

While warning that the bill threatens the independence of the profession, the Law Society of Ireland did welcome the provisions on costs. It has set up two task forces, the LSRB Task Force and the Future of the Law Society Task Force, to address the Law Society’s response to the bill.

Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE): The CCBE’s first vice-president Marcella Prunbauer-Glaser, speaking at a Law Society conference last December, expressed the association’s concerns about the bill. Criticism centered on the potential loss of independence.

“We are concerned that yet again initiatives are being taken based on a purely economic approach, and that legislative proposals have been hammered out within a few weeks without taking account of the purpose and justification of professional regulation, and without analysing the impact of such proposals on the administration of justice,” Prunbauer-Glaser said. “We are worried that this will lead to an erosion of the administration of justice. This will not only affect the structure of the legal profession and the lawyer’s role in society, but will be to the detriment of all people who are in need of a lawyer.”

International Bar Association (IBA): IBA executive director Mark Ellis has said that the association’s main concern is the level of control the bill would give the government over the legal profession.

“If the bill is passed you’re looking at a scenario where the legal profession will lose its independence and the government will obtain significant control over it,” he said. “That result would be inconsistent not only with the IBA’s principles but would also be a violation of UN principles and certainly a violation of EU regulation as well.”

He said the level of government interference would put Ireland’s regulation of the legal profession on a par with that in many developing countries. “I don’t understand how the government feels this regulation will be viewed as positive in the international community,” he added.

Where to eat in Dublin

L’Ecrivain is best for business, with good food – one Michelin star – and professional service: they’ll either engage or be discreet depending on how they read you.

A nice room with no risk of being overheard.

The Ely is a great, warm, wine bar with good bistro food. Perfect to entice a new partner to bed – literally or metaphorically.

Declan Black, Mason Hayes & Curran

Chapter One is a beautiful Michelin-starred restaurant. It is generally fully booked most evenings as it is close to the Gate Theatre. Ideal when you want to create a good impression with a client.

Dax is a popular restaurant with corporates, with a formal restaurant and cafe. Excellent service and a good location for financial services.
Julian Yarr, A&L Goodbody