Minister Flanagan announces the appointments of Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator & Legal Costs Adjudicator
New office replaces former Taxing Master
Continuing reform package of historic legal services and costs
Requiring more consumer-friendly legal costs transparency from legal practitioners
15 October 2019
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today announced two appointments to key roles in the recently established Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator, which has replaced and taken over the functions of the former Office of the Taxing Master as provided in Part 10 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015.
Mr. Paul Behan has been appointed as the inaugural Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator and Mr. Niall O’Hanlon as Legal Costs Adjudicator.
Minister Flanagan said:
“The Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicator will play a key role in creating a modern system for the adjudication of legal costs in Ireland.
“Most importantly it will provide better services and a more transparent and user friendly process for people who find themselves in need of legal services.”
The Minister congratulated Mr Behan and Mr O’Hanlon on their appointments, which are part of a range of legal costs transparency and reform measures coming into operation under Part 10 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. These measures make extensive provision for a new and enhanced legal costs regime that will bring greater transparency to how legal costs are charged by legal practitioners.
Solicitors and barristers will be obliged to provide more detailed information about legal costs to their clients.
This will be in the form of a Notice, written in clear language, which must be provided when a legal practitioner takes instructions. The Notice must disclose the costs that are involved, or, where this is not known, the basis upon which such costs are to be calculated.
A cooling-off period is to be allowed for the consideration of costs by the client.
When there are any significant developments in a case which give rise to further costs, the Act provides that a client must be updated and given the option of whether or not to proceed with the case.
Minister Flanagan continued:
“The stronger obligations on legal practitioners to provide information on their legal costs is key and I believe it demonstrates the extent to which this Government is committed to making our legal services more accessible to the general public.”
Note for Editors
Office of Legal Costs Adjudicators
In accordance with Section 148 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, recruitment competitions were conducted by the Public Appointments Service in order to find persons suitable for appointment as the Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator and Legal Costs Adjudicators.
As per section 148 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, the Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator will hold office for a period not exceeding 7 years. Each Legal Costs Adjudicator will hold office for a period not exceeding 5 years, however they are eligible for re-appointment or to have the term of appointment extended, but shall not hold office for periods the aggregate of which exceeds 10 years.
Part 10 of the Legal Services regulation Act 2015.
An aggrieved client will have the option of applying for the adjudication of disputed legal costs by the reformed and modernised Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators, which was until 7th October 2019 known as the Taxing-Masters' Office.
The Act sets out, for the first time in legislation, a series of Legal Costs Principles that enumerate the various matters that shall be taken into account in the adjudication of disputed legal costs by the Adjudicators. The Act also provides for the establishment of a publicly accessible Register of Determinations which will disclose the outcomes and reasons for decisions made by the Adjudicators. County Registrars will maintain a similar register.
The Act, will also introduce a system for processing more minor disputes about excessive costs, which will be the subject firstly of informal resolution attempts in conjunction with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, but will then escalate to formal resolution where alternative dispute resolution may not succeed.
This can help avoid the monetary and other burdens on a consumer or enterprise which can otherwise arise under a formal taxation of costs procedure. The charging of legal fees that are grossly excessive will be a matter of professional misconduct.