Legal Reform will make Ireland more competitive

Legal reform will modernise system and help make Ireland more competitive

I welcome the Legal Services Bill, saying it will provide much need reform to the legal system and help fulfil one of the obligations of the EU/IMF agreement in making Ireland more competitive.

It is important to remind ourselves that one of the obligations of the Legal Services Bill is to comply with the EU-IMF programme on reducing costs and making Ireland more competitive. Legal fees can be a major cost in establishing business. If it is our intention to promote Ireland as a place in which to do business, we have to make the legal system more transparent and competitive. We need to ensure that our legal system does not deter potential start-up businesses and investors. I also believe that there should be a transparent schedule of costs.

No institution that is as important to the country as the legal profession should be left to police itself. I believe that a regulatory authority needs to be established for the profession and that this body is independent and autonomous. As with the Medical Council, any regulatory authority needs to be free from Ministerial interference, now and for the future. It is important that in dealing with complaints, the authority is free from the influence of the legal profession and the State.

A proper functioning democracy needs a legal profession. We inherited one and it is probably 200 years since its structure was looked at. The problems associated with the image of the legal profession are not unique to Ireland.

The intention and spirit of the Bill is one of reform, making this sector more fit for purpose for the 21st century. Attempts to reform the legal profession, as Minister Shatter is endeavouring to do, are bound to ruffle feathers. However, I have spoken to colleagues and friends in the profession who broadly welcome the Bill, as no one could argue with the need for reform.