The Justice Ministry has insisted that the backlash against proposed changes to laws governing the legal profession is disproportionate, especially considering that the minister’s willingness to amend the Bill.
The ministry was reacting to a statement issued by the Chamber of Advocates, in which it voiced its opposition to proposed changes that it says will lead to a considerable number of legal services being offered by unwarranted professionals.
It said that it could not understand the ‘furore’ that had erupted since the Bill was tabled in parliament, especially when considering that a meeting between the chamber and the minister was scheduled to take place next week.
In its statement, the chamber accused the government of proposing legislation before consulting it while questioning why the ministry appeared to be in such a rush to pass the amendments. Despite the fact that it had sought clarifications, the chamber insisted that the ministry had not been forthcoming with replies.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, a spokesperson for the ministry stressed that the minister had already met with various members of the legal profession to discuss the matter and would also be meeting with the chamber.
They said that the criticism being aimed at the ministry was unfair in light of the fact that updates to the law have been long overdue and that the government was “finally doing something about it”.
“The minister has already said that he is open to discussing the issue further and has in fact already said that he intends to address some of the points raised. It is wrong to give the impression that the ministry is steamrolling everyone or that this is some fait accompli,” the spokesperson said. “We understand that, especially on this matter, the position of stakeholders is very important.”
They also rejected any suggestion that the minister wanted to deregulate the profession, adding however that while it could be improved, the present “free-for-all” in some areas of legal practice could not persist.
The spokesperson pointed to the fact that many law graduates held roles of a legal nature both within the private and public sectors, emphasising the need for these professionals to also be regulated.
“We can’t have a situation where warranted lawyers can be dragged before the chamber and risk losing their warrant if they’ve made a mistake and breach the code of ethics, but not have similar consequences for other legal professionals,” they said.
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