The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Michael McDowell TD, today published the Report of the Legal Costs Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) and announced he will move to implement its recommendations immediately.
The IAG - which was chaired by Desmond Miller, Chartered Accountant - was established by the Tanaiste in 2006 to progress the recommendations of the Report of the Legal Costs Working Group. The IAG examined the Report's recommendations and consulted the professional legal bodies as to how the recommendations might best be acted on.
The Minister, welcoming the IAG's Report, said that "The IAG has endorsed the Report of the Legal Costs Working Group and, having consulted widely, made proposals as to how the original recommendations should be acted on." He added "I am committed to acting on the recommendations and the Government has now approved my proposal to establish the recommended Legal Costs Regulatory Body on an interim basis. Parallel with this, officials in my Department have commenced work to draft the necessary legislation to provide for the new costs regime.
I have no doubt that, once the new costs arrangements have been put in place, the market for civil legal services will become more predictable, consistent and transparent for consumers."
The IAG recommends that
- a Legal Costs Regulatory Body be established on an interim or designate basis as soon as possible
- a Legal Costs Assessment Office be established to take over the functions of the existing Taxing Master system and that this body should be separate from and independent of the Regulatory Body
- the Legal Costs Regulatory Body be tasked, inter alia, with the drawing up of appropriate guidelines governing the items of legal costs recoverable on a party and party basis
- in tandem with the setting of guidelines, the practice by solicitors and barristers of charging global fees such as brief fees and instructions fees be abolished and that, in their place, there be substituted fees and charges set out on an hourly rate or daily rate as appropriate
- that solicitors and barristers be obliged to use time recording in the preparation and compilation of their charges and that the bills containing such charges be supported by these records
- in all civil litigation and immediately subsequent to the taking of initial instructions, solicitors should issue a client engagement letter in accordance with the terms of section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 as further enhanced by the recommendations contained in the Report of the Legal Costs Working Group
- upon instructions being received and/or a retainer being accepted, both solicitors and barristers be required to enter into a legal costs agreement with the client
- the changes in legislation and Rules of Court governing procedures in court recommended in the Report of the Legal Costs Working Group be implemented as soon as possible
- rules of court should require the court to exercise greater discrimination when awarding liability for costs as between the parties
- the monetary jurisdictions of the District and Circuit Court provided for in the Courts and Court Officers Act 2002 should be implemented (except for personal injury cases)
- the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court should be increased
action should be taken to deal with delays in the courts process, and
- the current Appendix W of Order 99 of the Rules of the Superior Courts be abolished.
1 March 2007