Thursday, 5 December 2019

Ceisteanna (139)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

139. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to open up the education and training for solicitors and barristers in order to achieve greater accountability, independence and competition in these sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As the Deputy will be aware, under this Government, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) was established on 1 October 2016. One of the key functions of that new body is to review and make recommendations to the Minister for Justice and Equality in relation to the availability and quality of the education and training for the solicitors’ and barristers’ professions. This includes the curriculum arrangements for the provision of legal education and the methods by which, and the persons by whom, such education and training is provided.

Following an extensive public consultation process as well as both qualitative and quantitative research, the LSRA submitted a detailed and comprehensive report on these matters on 30 September 2018. That report was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas on 20 November 2018. The report and the submissions made to the public consultation are available on the LSRA’s website at www.lsra.ie.

Based on the evidence gathered, the expert report made a series of 14 proposals to reform legal education and training, including a move to a competency based framework and the establishment of a Legal Practitioner Education and Training (LPET) Committee which would be responsible for setting the statement of competence and defining standards which legal practitioners would achieve on qualification. The LPET Committee would require existing providers of legal education to demonstrate how they meet these standards and to enable new providers to explain how they would seek to meet them.

In its report to me, the Authority outlined that the implementation of these proposals would entail significant change and required careful consideration and informed debate and that legislative change would also be required. In that regard, the LSRA has conducted further consultation with the professional bodies for legal practitioners, the Honourable Society of King’s Inns, the Law Society of Ireland and the Bar of Ireland and with the public and the legal services and education sectors. Furthermore, on 19 September 2019, the Authority hosted a well-attended symposium on legal education and training in Croke Park, at which the views of key stakeholders were aired and the proposals for reform were discussed at length.

The Authority has indicated that it will submit a further report under section 34 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 in early 2020 which will make such recommendations as it considers appropriate. In April next year, the LSRA will also submit the first annual report on the admission policies of the legal profession. The report will consider if the number of persons admitted to practise as barristers and solicitors in that year is consistent with the public interest in ensuring the availability of such services at a reasonable cost. In this regard the report will consider the demand for the services of practising barristers and solicitors and the need to ensure adequate standards of education and training for persons admitted to practise.