Limited liability partnerships will become reality for lawyers in the Republic of Ireland this week following the implementation of regulatory reforms. The 2015 Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) Act also transfers responsibility for complaints handling from representative bodies to the new Legal Services Regulatory Authority, which regulates barristers and solicitors.
For limited liability partners, the new legislation updates the 1890 Partnerships Act. Currently partners are joint and severally responsible for the debts of their partnership or negligence claims that might arise against it. LLP status would limit liability to the assets of the firm. While the LRSA still has to finalise regulations for the new structure, the Irish Times reported this week that more than half of Irish legal services partnerships are expected to take up the option.
Under the complaints handling reforms, the LSRA takes over the handling of complaints and disciplinary matters from yesterday, the beginning of the new legal year. Complaints received by the Law Society before yesterday will continue to be dealt with by the society, the Irish Law Society Gazette reported.
The Gazette comments that the new complaints and disciplinary system is quite similar to the existing one. 'The most significant differences are the new institutions – with complaints about solicitors being made to the LSRA rather than the Law Society, and with disciplinary cases being heard by the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal rather than the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.'
However press reports quote LSRA chief executive Brian Doherty as saying he expects publicity about the reform to create a surge in the number of complaints.
While the 2015 reforms appear to point Ireland in the direction set in England and Wales by the 2007 Legal Services Act, ownership of practices by non-lawyers remains off the immediate agenda.