Accessibility Links

Planned bill could alter legal jobs in Ireland

Posted by: Laurence Simons 03/12/12

Strong and confusing feelings have been roused in Ireland by the Legal Services Regulation Bill, with a survey carried out by accountancy firm Smith Williamson revealing that 90 per cent of people with legal jobs in Dublin expect it to change their profession in some way.

Almost one in five claim it will make them go about running their practice differently, while 13 per cent anticipate it leading to further regulation of the Irish legal sector, reports the Irish Times.

The bill, published in October 2011 by minister for justice Alan Shatter, came about following a memorandum of understanding with the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

To say it has caused something of a furore in Irish legal circles would be akin to saying that Bill Gates has proven himself to be a fairly competent and successful businessman, or that Cromwell wasn't universally popular with the locals during his 17th century sojourn in Ireland.

Raising the possibility of an independent regulatory body which would be largely selected by the justice minister, it has brought about concerns that the independence of the profession could be compromised and stifled by unwanted regulatory changes.

Other moves suggested in the bill include ending the monopoly on legal professional training in a bid to increase transparency in the sector, and the removal of restrictions on direct access to barristers.

As a result of the new ruling, some 70 per cent of firms have increased the number of fixed-fee arrangements they have set up over the last 12 months.

A&L Goodbody EU and competition head Vincent Power recently told Lawyer magazine the biggest concern among the Irish legal community is whether or not the new bill will be effective.

"The question is fundamentally, will the Irish profession be better ¬regulated?" he asked. "How will clients look on it? How will compliance costs be dealt with, and how will the international legal community look at it?"

However, despite the fact that the prospect of major regulatory changes has people in Irish legal jobs feeling the kind of lip-chewing trepidation experienced by a fresh-faced schoolboy as he prepares for his first day at a new school, the overall mood among the country's legal profession is positive.

Some 70 per cent of firms expect things to improve or stabilise over the next 12 months, compared to the 57 per cent recorded last year, indicating that the doom and gloom lurking over Ireland during the course of the recession could be receding.

With 80 per cent of companies expecting profits to remain consistent or slightly improve in 2013, it seems the unease with the Legal Services Regulation Bill will not stop Irish lawyers from making hay while the sun shines.