National Legal Profession Reform
Responsibility for the regulation of lawyers in Australia rests with the States and Territories, not the Commonwealth. Each jurisdiction has its own laws and regulatory bodies.
In the face of these eight different, and sometimes disparate, regulatory frameworks Australian States and Territories have, for a number of years, been working toward consistent national regulation of the legal profession. By 2004, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General had developed a Model Bill that was designed to harmonise the laws across all jurisdictions. That Model Bill was incorporated into the Legal Profession Acts in all States and Territories except South Australia.
Despite these valuable reforms, and the significance of what had been achieved, in 2009 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) noted that considerable scope remained for further reform and progress towards a truly national regulatory framework. Accordingly, COAG agreed to establish a Taskforce which developed reform proposals and prepared nationally uniform legislation intended to:
- Create a national regulatory framework;
- Establish an Australian legal profession;
- Reduce the regulatory burden for Australian legal practitioners and law practices;
- Enhance consumer protection; and
- Maintain the independence of the legal profession.
In 2011, COAG agreed to the legislation (National Law) presented to it by the Taskforce. The National Law creates new national bodies (a National Legal Services Board and National Legal Services Commissioner) to oversee regulation of the legal profession (along with State and Territory Supreme Courts), and to develop uniform national rules.
Those national bodies will, however, operate within a delegated model, with many of their functions performed in practice by local representatives that will be chosen by each State and Territory government this year.
The new National Legal Services Board and National Legal Services Commissioner will be located in New South Wales.
Victoria has agreed to introduce legislation to implement the reforms. That legislation will then be replicated across all other participating jurisdictions.
More information is available at www.ag.gov.au/legalprofession