: Disruption in national legal profession plans

Disruption in national legal profession plans

Maxine Evers
Federal

The plans for a national legal profession have been disrupted with the recent announcement by the Queensland Attorney-General that Queensland will not be joining the proposed national scheme. This leaves the national legal profession reform with only New South Wales and Victoria remaining as willing participants.

Discussions around a national profession initially commenced in the 1990s with the Law Council of Australia’s Blueprint for the Structure of the Legal Profession: A National Market for Legal Services. This led to mutual recognition of practising certificates allowing easier movement of legal practitioners between the states and territory jurisdictions. In 2002 the Model Laws Project commenced drafting national rules.

It is interesting that one of the reasons given by some states for not opting in, or, for initially opting in and then out of, a national legal profession is due to the sole practitioners within their states. The Queensland Attorney estimated that the 85 per cent of sole practitioners in Queensland would incur extra costs as a result of the additional bureaucracy around a national scheme with no derivable benefit from the reform. The concern that centralisation in favour of large international and national firms was expressed by Tasmania as a reason for its decision not to proceed with the national law. NSW and Victoria represent approximately 70 per cent of Australia’s practising solicitors with 81.5 per cent of the private profession nationally being sole practitioners. If the argument that a national law will mean an increase in costs for lawyers without a corresponding benefit for sole practitioners is valid, its begs the questions whether a national profession consisting of two states is a positive move for the majority of NSW and Victorian practitioners?

MAXINE EVERS teaches law at the University of Technology Sydney.

(2012) 37(4) AltLJ 284
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