Written answers

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Department of Justice and Equality

Proposed Legislation

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
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To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made on the drafting of the Legal Costs Bill and the Family Law Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57587/12]

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 makes provision, among other things, for a new legal costs regime, applicable to both solicitors and barristers. It will bring greater transparency to how legal costs are charged and better balance the interests of legal practitioners and their clients as consumers. The new legal costs regime includes the requirement for a detailed 'Notice' to be provided by legal practitioners to their clients which includes either the known costs involved or, where this is not yet available, the basis upon which the relevant costs are to be calculated. The Notice, and any updates to it, will allow for a cooling-off period for consideration by the client. The Bill also sets out a series of Legal Costs Principles and provides for the creation of a new Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator. This new Office will take over the current functions of the Office of the Taxing-Master and will modernise the way disputed legal costs are adjudicated. It will be empowered to prepare and publish Legal Costs Guidelines for the guidance of Legal Costs Adjudicators, legal practitioners and the public. It will also establish and maintain a publicly available Register of Determinations which will include the outcomes and reasons for its decisions about disputed legal costs. Two new Taxing-Masters have been already been appointed by public competition in preparing the way for these reforms. Other reforms contained in the Bill include -

- a new, independent, Legal Services Regulatory Authority with responsibility for the oversight of both solicitors and barristers.

- an independent complaints system to deal with public complaints including those relating to professional misconduct. There will also be an independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal to deal with both legal professions.

- a framework for new forms of legal services provision similar to those already being rolled out in other common law jurisdictions. These new or "alternative" business structures will be entirely optional alongside the more traditional forms of legal practice. Their availability will address a growing competitive disadvantage for our indigenous legal services sector.

I expect the Legal Services Regulation Bill, which completed Second Stage in the Dáil earlier this year, to commence Committee Stage in the first quarter of 2013.

The Government Legislation Programme includes a Family Law Bill to make provision for pension adjustments in the context of separation agreements and certain other reforms. Work on this Bill is under way in my Department. I am also, as I indicated in response to Parliamentary Question No. 66 of 11 December 2012, engaged in the preparation of a Family Relationships and Children Bill.


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