Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Questions (668)

Brendan Griffin


668. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on a matter (details supplied) regarding solicitor training contracts; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22581/14]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am aware of the fact that there are aspects of the economic crisis that are having an impact on the availability of training contracts and apprenticeships for those seeking to qualify as solicitors. I am also aware that there has been a reduction in the number of practising solicitors, of whom over 1,000 are reported to remain unemployed, and this has been accompanied by some decline in the number of solicitors in practise who are in a position to support paid apprenticeships. However, notwithstanding these ongoing challenges and the hope that they will dissipate through ongoing economic recovery, it is my understanding that the Law Society has a long-standing scheme in place under which it provides support and guidance to prospective solicitor apprentices. This includes a facility under which apprentices can, I understand, be matched-up with solicitors' firms who are able to register their apprenticeship vacancies with the Society for that specific purpose. An area of the Society’s website for members is also, I understand, set aside for solicitors apprentices. I would, therefore, hope that any person seeking a solicitors apprenticeship at this very challenging time will be able to augment their own efforts with the appropriate support of the Law Society in this regard.

This is an area which is due to come under review. The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, which has completed Dáil Committee Stage, includes a number of provisions which relate to the professional education and training of legal practitioners. For example, under section 9 of the Bill, the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority is charged, among other things, with keeping under review the admission requirements and policies of the Law Society relating to the solicitors' profession and the availability and quality of education and training (including ongoing training) for solicitors, including how and by whom such education and training is provided. In addition, section 30 of the Bill provides for the Authority to report on a range of matters following a public consultation and reporting process. These matters include, specifically, the education and training (including ongoing training) arrangements in the State for legal practitioners and the manner in which such education and training is provided. I would expect that the issue of apprenticeships, including access to them and the availability of training contracts, will be among those aspects of the training and qualification of legal practitioners that will be kept under active review by the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority - while also being addressed as part of the public consultations on the education and training of legal practitioners upon which a report is to be provided by the Authority.