Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice for the Republic of Ireland, recently revealed that comprehensive legal reformation legislation that could effect professional indemnity insurance premiums will be published this coming September.
The planned Legal Services Bill would enable the solicitors’ profession to move from the 19th century into the present day, said the Minister. His comments came at the recent publication of a profession report by Frances O’Toole and Anne Neary.
Referencing a speech given at the Bar Council conference recently by Attorney General Máire Whelan, Mr Shatter was quick to say that there would be little to no threat to the independence of the legal profession and their ability to provide legal representation to the impoverished. However the Minister for Justice was highly critical of some of the practices of the professional liability insurance sector when it came to providing commercial insurance for the professions.
Stating that legal reforms must make sure that barristers are able to take on unprofitable and unpopular cases in the interests of social reform and in the public interest, Ms Whelan commented that the reforms would provide both efficient and cost-effective access to justice without inhibiting economic growth.
The State and agencies of the State were being examined to see how they tendered for legal services, said Mr Shatter. He added that he was sceptical of the tendering practice for only solicitor firms with a €10 million turnover and a €20 million professional indemnity insurance policy, as the Private Residential Tenancies Board recently specified in a tender.
Mr Shatter remarked that one initial tender for legal services, originating from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, gave the specification for firms with a €50 million turnover.