Wednesday, 10 February 2021
Appointment of Member of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority: Motion
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority has been carrying out good work since it was established back in 2016. It is modelled on the core values of transparency; accountability; independence; protecting those who avail of legal services; protecting legal practitioners from frivolous complaints; and ensuring that justice is done and seen to be done. It has proven to be innovative, which is also among its core values. In November 2019, for example, it introduced regulations to allow partnerships of solicitors to apply to the LRSA for authorisation to operate as limited liability partnerships. This model of legal service delivery had been called for by people who are involved in legal services for many years and it allows legal practitioners in Ireland to avail of a model which is commonly found elsewhere. The limiting of personal liability by legal practitioners, however, comes with responsibilities. They must communicate effectively with clients and creditors and maintain appropriate professional indemnity insurance.
While legal practitioners are heavily regulated, a fair and open complaints system is also necessary and important. I note from one of the reports of the LRSA that in the six months from October 2019 to March 2020, there were 636 complaints. Of the complaints received, in the period to early December, 96 were inadmissible, 23 were withdrawn and a further 50 were resolved informally with the assistance of the authority's staff during what it calls the pre-admissibility stage. The LRSA must be adequately resourced and there seems to be a backlog, which should be cleared. The LRSA's work in reviewing the education and training of legal practitioners, which was mentioned by the Minister of State, Deputy James Browne, is also important, and we look forward to seeing that undergo pre-legislative scrutiny in the committee.
In any democracy, there must be strong advocates working to ensure that constitutional and statutory rights are respected and enforced. The Legal Services Regulatory Authority helps with this.
I refer here to solicitors and barristers who are willing to take on powerful forces, vested interests in government and the media and insurance companies that seem to have far too much influence for my liking in any republic. Article 40 of the Constitution, which relates to fundamental rights, is brilliant in its simplicity. It states: "All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law." That is something that has to be enforced at all times because if one is unfairly dismissed, injured at work or accused of an offence, rightly or wrongly, and if one's liberty is at stake, one will need to seek the advice of a solicitor or a barrister.
We will not be opposing this motion. I wish Ms Malone all the best in her work with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which, I hope, will continue with the work it has been doing.