Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Rooker yesterday launched a major review of the north's legal profession.
Lord Rooker said that the review was designed to ensure that the public has access to competitive legal services while ensuring a transparent complaints process.
"In the case of the legal profession in Northern Ireland, self-regulation has been the norm, although the Law Society's handling of complaints about solicitors has for many years been subject to oversight by the lay observer," he said.
"However, the lay observer's powers are limited. He or she can only make recommendations and cannot require action or award finanncial compensation."
Lord Rooker said Northern Ireland should be entitled to the same procedures available in Britain and the Republic when it came to complaints over legal issues.
He announced the establishment of a review group to bring forward proposals for new regulations for the north's legal profession.
The consultation will run until January 6, 2006.
Copies of the consultation paper can be obtained from : Central Support Division, Department of Finance & Personnel, Room P8, Rathgael House, Bangor BT19 7MA.