Multi-disciplinary legal practices to be reviewed

 Eamon Gilmore: Tensions with Alan Shatter.

Coalition clashes over legal reforms have resulted in a six-month delay for a key aspect of the changes.

The long stalled Legal Services Bill 2011 was allowed to move forward by the Cabinet after Labour was promised a review regarding multi-disciplinary practices (MDPs), where solicitors and barristers work out of the same office.

The MDPs have been a source of running tension between Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter.

Parts of the legislation relating to MDPs will not be used until the review has been completed by a new legal services regulator created by the bill.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s spokesperson stressed the MDPs would come into being after the review findings are given to Cabinet, as the probe would be into how they operate, not whether they should go ahead.

The spokesperson said the review would be “noted” by Cabinet when it was completed.

Labour sources have denied the party’s stance on MDPs was the result of intense lobbying by barristers.

Major reform of the legal system was a key aspect of the troika’s blueprint to streamline services in the country and make them more competitive for the customer.

The Coalition’s failure to implement the demands was repeatedly criticised in the bailout progress reports. The troika wanted to see the cost of lawyers’ fees and the legal system as a whole, cut.

The Coalition’s plans to shake-up the system were initially published in Nov 2011 and have since been subject to squabbling.

Labour’s deputy government spokesperson said the party was “100% satisfied” with the move agreed by Cabinet.

The changes to the Legal Services Bill are to go to the Oireachtas justice committee by Easter and the Government hopes the law will be passed by the end of the summer term.


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