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Ireland

Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners (IE0035)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Justice and Equality

Support Institution(s): Department of Health, Decision Support Service

Policy Areas

Justice, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, Ireland Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

3C. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners
Commitment Text:
Create more open and transparent oversight of legal practitioners by:
- Establishing a new independent regime to regulate solicitors and barristers. This
will end reliance on self-regulation by the legal professional bodies and will open up
governance and reporting mechanisms to public and parliamentary scrutiny.
- Introducing an independent complaints system to deal with professional misconduct
by legal practitioners.
- Making the way legal costs are charged more open and transparent through the
introduction of new rules for solicitors and barristers. This will require legal
practitioners to inform their clients in much greater detail how their legal costs are
calculated.
Responsible institution: Department of Justice and Equality
Supporting institutions: Department of Health, Decision Support Service
Start date: January 2017
End date: June 2018

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3C. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners

Commitment Text:

Create more open and transparent oversight of legal practitioners by:

- Establishing a new independent regime to regulate solicitors and barristers. This will end reliance on self-regulation by the legal professional bodies and will open up governance and reporting mechanisms to public and parliamentary scrutiny.

- Introducing an independent complaints system to deal with professional misconduct by legal practitioners.

- Making the way legal costs are charged more open and transparent through the introduction of new rules for solicitors and barristers. This will require legal practitioners to inform their clients in much greater detail how their legal costs are calculated.

Responsible institution: Department of Justice and Equality

Supporting institutions: Department of Health, Decision Support Service

Start date: January 2017

End date: June 2018

Editorial Note: For the remainder of the commitment text, please see Commitment 3A.

Context and Objectives

In Ireland, there is currently no independent regulation of the legal profession. Complaints against lawyers can only be made through the Law Society of Ireland, which is ‘the educational, representative and regulatory body of the solicitors' profession in Ireland.’[Note: See: https://www.lawsociety.ie/.] This means that the Law Society acts as a self-regulating body and effectively decides on how to deal with ‘one of their own’ when a complaint against lawyers is made. Moreover, there lacks independent regulation of the costs that legal professionals charge clients. Self-regulation amongst legal professionals runs the risk that these professionals turn a blind eye to their colleagues’ breaches of policy.[Note: For a theoretical discussion of the differences between self-regulation and mandatory regulation by way of law in which an independent bodies have oversight power, see: Chari, Hogan, Murphy, 2010. Regulating Lobbying A Global Comparison: Manchester University Press, Chapter 1.] The move to end self-regulation of the legal profession has been a result of increasing lack of confidence of the public in this system[Note: See for example, ‘Should self-regulation for solicitors be scrapped?’, The Irish Times, 12 November 2007,

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/should-self-regulation-for-solicitors-be-scrapped-1.981361. ] and a goal of the Law Reform Commission, an independent body whose purpose is to ‘keep the law under independent, objective and expert review, to make recommendations for law reform and to make current law accessible for all.’[Note: On the LRC, see; http://www.lawreform.ie/. ] These milestones seek to establish an independent regulation of solicitors and barristers, open up a complaints system to deal with professional misconduct, and increase the transparency of costs. Specifically, they aim to:

3.C1: Establish a new independent regime to regulate solicitors and barristers and make the way legal costs are charged more open and transparent through the introduction of new rules for solicitors and barristers (originally C1 and C3 in the action plan).

3.C2: Introduce an independent complaints system to deal with professional misconduct by legal practitioners (originally C2 in action plan).

Given that the milestones seek to create independent regulation of the legal profession and create a complaints mechanism to report misconduct almost legal professionals, it is relevant to the OGP value of public accountability. The milestone’s goals are to change the status quo of self-regulation to create an independent statutory regulator for all legal practitioners, create more open oversight of the profession, and effectively more knowledge to clients who will be informed in more detail on how their legal costs are calculated. However, because it does not provide greater detail for the composition of the new regulatory regime, the specificity is marked as medium. If fully impended, these milestones would provide greater public oversight of the legal profession via independent regulation of solicitors and barristers, a complaints system for reporting misconduct, and greater transparency of legal cost calculations. However, it is unclear how the public scrutiny of the independent regulation regime will influence the conduct of solicitors and barristers in practice. It is also unclear what mechanism will be put in place to ensure that costs charged are more open and transparent. Therefore, the potential impact of the milestones is moderate.

Completion

With regard to 3.C1, the passage of the Legal Services Regulation Act in late 2015 effectively set the stage for the development of the new independent statutory regulator for the legal profession, referred to as the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA).[Note: Department of Justice and Equality, ‘Minister Fitzgerald welcomes the completion of passage of the Legal Services Regulation Bill,’ 15 December 2015, http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR15000646.] According to the government’s progress report, the LSRA was established on 1 October 2016. Parliamentary debates verify that, by December 2016, the government earmarked EUR 1 million towards the LSRA and that it met several times during the first year of the action plan and started a search for a full-time chief executive.[Note: Response by Charles Flanagan (Minister for Justice & Equality) to a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Jim O’Callaghan, Parliamentary Question - on status of implementation of Legal Services Regulatory Authority: http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PQ-19-10-2017-8.] The government also reports, in assessment of this commitment, that cost transparency obligations for legal practitioners has been set out in Chapter 3 of Part 10 of the Legal Services Regulation Act of 2015. Interviewed officials told the IRM researcher’s team that, while the roadmap and timelines of the phased roll-out have not been published yet, they have been created and are expected to take place in the second year of the action plan.[Note: Interviewees from the Department of Justice and Equality, December 2017] Until the LSRA is fully operational, the rules for charging clients cannot be fully put into motion.

Regarding 3C.2, The Legal Services Regulation Act of 2015 creates ‘a new single Disciplinary Tribunal for solicitors and barristers’ by way of Part 6 of the Act.[Note: Minister Fitzgerald welcomes the completion of passage of the Legal Services Regulation Bill, http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR15000646.] The government reports in its assessment, however, that ‘next steps’ for the second year of the action plan include ‘putting the crucial staffing and information-communications technology (ICT) capacities in place with the new Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal’ and the implementation of the 6 of the Act. Given that the roadmap (referred to in 3.C1 above) is still being developed, the implementation of this is limited but on schedule by the end date is June 2018.

Although stakeholders have not been directly involved in the implementation of the policy in the first year of the action plan, Director of Regulation of the Law Society of Ireland John Elliot has expressed the organisation’s positive views on Part 6 of the 2015 Act, stating that ‘the new complaints and disciplinary system should be of interest to all solicitors.’[Note: Lorcan Roche, ‘Legal Guardian,’ Law Society Gazette, April 2016, https://www.lawsociety.ie/globalassets/documents/gazette/gazette-2016/april-16-gazette.pdf.]

Next Steps

If full implementation of 3C does not take place during the current action plan cycle, it should be included in the next action plan.

IRM End of Term Status Summary


Ireland's Commitments

  1. Promote Transparent Climate Policy Development

    IE0031, 2016, Environment and Climate

  2. Support Public Participation Networks

    IE0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  3. Improve Access to Justice: Reducing Costs

    IE0033, 2016, Judiciary

  4. Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons

    IE0034, 2016, Judiciary

  5. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners

    IE0035, 2016, Justice

  6. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General

    IE0036, 2016, Capacity Building

  7. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: Youth

    IE0037, 2016, Marginalized Communities

  8. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0038, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Improve Access To Government Services Through Technology

    IE0039, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Participatory Budgeting

    IE0040, 2016, Participation in Budget Processes

  11. Improve Transparency of Government Service Providers

    IE0041, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  12. Enhance Fiscal Transparency

    IE0042, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  13. Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures

    IE0043, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  14. Develop an Open Data Strategy 2017-2020

    IE0044, 2016, E-Government

  15. Invest in Data Infrastructure that will result in better Open Data

    IE0045, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  16. Starred commitment Develop a Code of Practice for the Governance of Charities

    IE0046, 2016,

  17. Starred commitment Public Sector Standards Bill

    IE0047, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Establish a Register of Beneficial Ownership

    IE0048, 2016, Asset Disclosure

  19. Establishment of best practice standards for Open Data

    IE0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  20. Establishment of Ireland’s Open Data Platform

    IE0002, 2014, E-Government

  21. Undertake an audit of key datasets for publication

    IE0003, 2014, Open Data

  22. Establish a roadmap for the Open Data and an evaluation framework to provide assessment of the ongoing Open Data

    IE0004, 2014, Open Data

  23. Establishment of an Open Data Ireland Governance Board (ODIGB) and Steering and Implementation Group (SIG) for Open Data Ireland

    IE0005, 2014, Open Data

  24. Signing up to the G8 Open Data Charter

    IE0006, 2014, Open Data

  25. Implementing Open Data

    IE0007, 2014, Open Data

  26. Improve computer literacy through implementation of proposed new Digital Strategy for Schools

    IE0008, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Review national and international practice to develop revised principles / code for public engagement/consultation with citizens, civil society and others by public bodies.

    IE0009, 2014, Public Participation

  28. Starred commitment Hold referenda arising from the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention

    IE0010, 2014, Gender

  29. Starred commitment Ethics Reform

    IE0011, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  30. Strengthening Freedom of Information - Implement the Code of Practice for Freedom of Information (FOI).

    IE0012, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  31. Reform of FOI

    IE0013, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Starred commitment Regulation of Lobbying

    IE0014, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  33. Starred commitment Encourage, Protect and Raise Awareness of Whistleblower Duties and Protections

    IE0015, 2014, Whistleblower Protections

  34. MEASURES TO INCREASE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN DECISION MAKING ON POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS. Systemic pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills

    IE0016, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  35. Develop and deliver access to environmental information (AIE) training module for public officials

    IE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. INCREASE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION AT LOCAL LEVEL. Pilot approach to implementation of Public Participation Networks

    IE0018, 2014, Private Sector

  37. Provide legal base for public participation framework in local government

    IE0019, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Undertake a feasibility study on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary processes

    IE0020, 2014, Participation in Budget Processes

  39. SUPPORT CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE AS CITIZENS. Develop, finalise and publish the first Government Strategy on children and young people's participation in decision-making.

    IE0021, 2014, Capacity Building

  40. Maximise participation and understanding of young people in civic life

    IE0022, 2014, Capacity Building

  41. Development of an ICT Strategy

    IE0023, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  42. Data sharing and governance bill

    IE0024, 2014, E-Government

  43. Public Services Card

    IE0025, 2014, E-Government

  44. Single Customer View

    IE0026, 2014, E-Government

  45. Local Government Portal

    IE0027, 2014, E-Government

  46. New Local Enterprise Offices

    IE0028, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  47. Review and enhancement of complaints procedures and using feedback to improve services across the public service; A review of citizen complaints procedures will be undertaken.

    IE0029, 2014, Public Participation

  48. Enhance customer engagement

    IE0030, 2014, Public Participation