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Proposed Reforms of the Legal Professions

09 June, 2011

Referring to a speech of Attorney General Máire Whelan at the Bar Council conference last weekend, Mr Shatter stressed there would be no threat of any nature to the independence of the professions and their capacity to represent impoverished clients.

The reforms would ensure access that was cost-effective and efficient, in a manner that did not inhibit economic growth.

Ms Whelan said legal reform must ensure that barristers could continue to take on unpopular and unprofitable cases in the public interest and the interests of social reform.

Mr Shatter said he was examining how the State and State agencies tendered for legal services, and said he questioned the practice of tendering only for firms with a turnover of €10 million and professional indemnity insurance of €20 million, as had been specified in a recent tender from the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

An initial tender from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board for legal services specified firms with a turnover of €50 million, Mr Shatter said.

He was asking all Ministers to examine tendering policy, which should be based on experience and expertise, reputation and adequate professional indemnity insurance.

Solicitors’ firms should be allowed form limited liability companies and the focus of regulation should be on law firms rather than individual solicitors, according to the report from legal management consultants Ms Neary and Ms O’Toole, entitled The Blueprint Report.