Lawyers face tighter regulation under a new law approved by Parliament this week overhauling existing rules unchanged for five decades.
The new legislation creates a modern framework for the regulation of the legal profession and establishes disciplinary rules in respect of the conduct of lawyers.
“That this review is necessary is not in doubt,” said Justice Minister Neil Costa, as he flagged how the current law had not been ‘fundamentally reviewed’ for 50 years.
It required modernisation and amendment mainly because it had not kept pace with the growth of the legal profession and current working environment and it did not fully reflect the fused nature of practice in Gibraltar, he told MPs.
The Bill, which has been through two rounds of public consultation, establishes a Legal Services Regulatory Authority as well as a disciplinary tribunal.
The Bill also places the Bar Council on a statutory footing, renaming it as the Law Council.
“The change of nomenclature is not merely cosmetic,” Mr Costa said, adding that it is intended to reflect the fact that the Law Council is a body representative not just of the Bar but also of solicitors, in-house counsel, legal executives and law draftsmen.
The Bill is also an umbrella piece of legislation under which subsidiary legislation governing professional conduct, discipline, solicitor accounts rules, practicing certificates, regulations and other matters relating to the provision of legal services will now fall.
GSD MP Elliott Phillips, who holds the shadow justice portfolio, said the Bill represents “…the most significant piece of legislation passing through this House to affect the legal profession in 50 years.”
“The way in which our legal profession offers its services has changed beyond recognition in the last 50 years and we need to respond to the communities and professions call for more modern and relevant framework for the regulation of the legal profession,” he said.
“It has been a long time coming,” Mr Phillips added.
The Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, echoed Mr Costa in thanking all those who had assisted in producing the text.
He described the legislation as “seminal” and said it will change the legal regulatory framework in a positive, modern and forward-looking way.