The regulatory reform of the legal services sector has been taking place since the enactment of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 and the establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which is independent in the performance of its functions, on 1 October 2016.
The Act is the vehicle for the relevant reforms which include, under Part 6, the introduction of an independent complaints and professional conduct regime for legal practitioners including the establishment and appointment of an independent Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Tribunal. The new Tribunal will deal with allegations of serious misconduct by both solicitors and barristers and will replace the existing bodies which currently operate for that purpose and will be winding-down their existing caseloads. Members of the public will no longer make their complaints through the legal professional bodies as they do at present but directly to the Authority. Extensive preparations are underway at the Legal Services Regulatory Authority with the aim of being in a position to receive and process public complaints from 1 July 2019.
This will coincide in time with the introduction of the new legal costs transparency regime set out in Part 10 of the 2015 Act including, separately, the transition of the Office of the Taxing-Master to that of the Legal Costs Adjudicators which will maintain a publicly accessible Register of its legal costs determinations. Similarly, the roll-out of new legal business models in the form of Legal Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships is due to take place in Quarter 1 of this year.
The Legal Service Regulatory Authority's forthcoming actions are set out in its first Strategic Plan for 2018-2020 which I laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 1 May 2018 as required under the 2015 Act. The Plan, under which the Authority is set to come into substantial operational mode in the middle of this year, sets out the indicative timelines for the roll-out of the Authority's key functions. As Minister I will, of course, continue to support this in each instance with the timely commencement of the relevant provisions of the 2015 Act.