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Dáil speech on Legal Services Regulation Bill

I welcome this Bill. It is probably the first innovative legislation to deal with legal services in a long number of years. Those of us who watch television would have seen the legal drama, Garrow’s Law, a few months ago which was about a 17th century barrister. One wonders if there has been any change since that time in the way legal proceedings are conducted. We still see the wearing of wigs and gowns. There has been no real change to the structure of the legal system in almost 200 years. I welcome this Bill. I also welcome the fact that it is modern, flexible and forward thinking. It is a review of the Irish legal system, bringing it from the 19th century into the 21st century to deal with a more modern economy.

I also welcome that the Bill will introduce much more transparency. Some members of the legal profession are concerned about the change in regard to the body that supervises them, which is made up of legal people, to which the Minister will now make his own appointments. They are concerned that those appointments may be contaminated, as it were, but who is to say that their own board is not contaminated? We read in the newspapers regularly of solicitors who have been brought before their own board and have lost their robes, as one might say, because of improper practices. I welcome what the Minister is trying to do with regard to the regulatory body.

The Bill is very consumer friendly. We, as consumers, have been nervous about dealing with the legal profession because its members spoke in a language many of us did not understand. This brings me to the main thrust of what I want say about the Bill and it is an issue about which I feel strongly. The Minister is very much a reforming one but he also needs to grasp the nettle and take account of the language in which the Bill has been produced. It has been produced by legal people for legal people and not for ordinary consumers. I cite the example of section 39, which I will not read because when I read it previously by the time I got to the end of it I was half asleep. There are 217 words in it, in one sentence. I attended a media course recently at which I was told that I should never use a sentence that is longer than eight words. How can anyone possibly understand a sentence of 217 words? I will bring this Bill to bed and fall asleep half way through the first sentence, so it will take me a long time to read it. I know the Minister is very much a reforming Minister and I implore him to examine the language used in the Bill.

When I talk to business people, they tell me the core factor with regard to legislation is that it takes them a long time to understand it. I am grateful that when I came in here I learned there was an explanatory memorandum. I call it the Ladybird version of the Bill. It is extremely helpful. I ask the Minister to examine if the language used in the legislation could be made more user friendly for ordinary consumers in order that we can understand it and not have the legal profession dominate in terms of the legal jargon used. When I was away I heard words used to describe something said in a language that the Minister probably would not understand. The words were: “wan bokis we it guc whit toot mo blac toot tim yu kilem hemi sing out”, which means a piano. If we could incorporate more user friendly language into our legislation it would be a real sign that we are trying to reform and it would help people to understand it. I welcome what the Minister is trying to do but let us go a little bit further.

ENDS