Update on the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015

28/03/2019

The Legal Services Regulation Act Task Force has an update for members.

The Legal Services Regulatory Authority (the Authority) is preparing to commence a number of its functions under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015 (the Act) in the second quarter of 2019.

Limited liability partnerships

As members of the profession are aware, limited liability partnerships (LLPs) have been available throughout a number of common law jurisdictions for many years. To date, Irish solicitors have been placed at a disadvantage to their international counterparts as they have not been able to provide legal services to clients using structures other than as a sole practitioner or an unincorporated partnership.

The Law Society is pleased to advise practitioners that the provisions of the Act governing LLPs are due to be commenced shortly. The Authority is currently finalising regulations under section 130 of the Act which will permit them to accept applications for partnerships seeking authorisation to operate as an LLP. Once commenced, solicitor firms that are currently partnerships may make an application for authorisation to the Authority to avail of the limited liability status.

The Law Society will issue guidance for solicitor firms who wish to make an application for authorisation to operate as an LLP once the regulations are finalised.

The Roll of Practising Barristers

The Authority is required to establish and maintain the Roll of Practising Barristers under Part 9 of the Act. The Authority commenced receiving applications to the Roll of Practising Barristers in June 2018.  Any person who has been called to the Bar of Ireland and who intends to provide legal services as a practising barrister is required to make an application to the Authority to have their name entered on the Roll of Practising Barristers. This applies to members of the Law Library and barristers who are not members of the Law Library.

The provisions under the Act that make it a criminal offence to provide legal services as a practising barrister without being entered on the Roll of Practising Barristers are scheduled to commence in the second quarter of 2019.

Legal partnerships

The Authority is also finalising regulations under section 116 of the Act which will allow the formation of legal partnerships. Legal partnerships will be partnerships formed between two or more legal practitioners at least one of whom is a practising barrister for the purposes of providing legal services.

Legal partnerships are new structures which will inter alia allow practising solicitors to enter partnership with practising barristers. Only practising barristers who are entered on the Roll of Practising Barristers and who are not members of the Law Library will be eligible to enter into legal partnerships.  Legal partnerships will also be eligible to make an application to the Authority for authorisation to operate as an LLP.

Professional indemnity insurance for practising barristers

The Authority is also in the process of drafting regulations under section 47 of the Act for barristers’ professional indemnity insurance. The Law Society will continue to regulate solicitors’ professional indemnity insurance under section 26 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994. The Authority’s professional indemnity insurance regulations will also regulate legal partnerships which consist of barrister partners only.

Code of conduct for Practising Barristers

The Authority will shortly be issuing a Code of Conduct for Practising Barristers (“the Code”). The Code will apply equally to all practising barristers whether they are members of the Law Library or not. The Code does not replace the Code of Conduct for the Bar of Ireland or the Professional Code of the Honorable Society of King’s Inns. However, if there are any conflicts between another professional code and the Code issued by the Authority, the Authority’s Code will prevail.

Find out more

For more information on the Act and the Authority, visit the Law Society's LSRA page.

eNewsletters

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 Law Society eZine. For more information, or to subscribe, see eNewsletters.