The president of the Law Society of South Australia has outlined some key objectives in his 2017 message to members, including urging the recent “increase in work traditionally performed by lawyers being conducted by non-lawyers” to cease.
In his first president’s message of the year, SA Law Society president Tony Rossi said preserving the integrity of legal services will be a big priority for him this year.
“It's a privilege to serve as president of the Law Society and continue the Society’s proud history of carrying the voice of the legal profession,” Mr Rossi said.
“We are lucky to live in a country that respects the rule of law and affords all citizens equal rights under the law. However, we must continue to be vigilant to protect the independence of the justice system.”
Mr Rossi said while outsourcing legal work to non-lawyers has become a trend, it’s important to understand the risks that this approach poses to the profession.
“In recent times there has been an increase in work traditionally performed by lawyers being conducted by non-lawyers. There has also been a proliferation of ‘DIY’ kits,” Mr Rossi said.
“A key focus of my presidency will be to promote the value, and often necessity, of [having] suitably qualified lawyers to undertake legal work.
“Outsourcing legal work to non-lawyers, and preparing important legal documents without legal advice, can expose people to serious risk.”
Another key objective Mr Rossi outlined was upholding the rule of law.
“The Law Society has a long history of resisting laws that undermine the independence of the judiciary and erode the fundamental rights of citizens,” he said.
“During my tenure as president I will intend to be a strong advocate for protecting the independence of the justice system against undue interference.
“Our judiciary must be independent, impartial and fearless in the delivery of justice.”
Mr Rossi also used his message to address concerns over greater regulation.
“The legal profession is, rightly, one of the most regulated professions there is. It is important that there is a robust regulatory regime to ensure practitioners provide quality legal services to clients. The Law Society is indeed a key part of the regulatory regime,” Mr Rossi said.
“There is nevertheless cause to explore existing compliance obligations of practitioners and examine whether the regulatory burden on practitioners can be eased. There is also a need to speak out against unnecessary new impositions on legal practitioners, such as the proposed Anti-Money Laundering amendments, which add a needless extra layer of red tape for lawyers and other professionals.
“Too much regulation will inevitably result in higher costs for clients, when instead we should be looking at improving access to legal services.”
Furthermore, Mr Rossi said his presidency will see the Law Society continue to advocate for a new court precinct.
“Our existing court building, with its ageing infrastructure and numerous structural defects, is simply not fit for purpose,” he said.
“Despite previous false starts, we will continue to agitate for the government to make good on its promises and build a modern courts precinct that the community can be proud of.
“I look forward to working with members in a spirit of collegiality and co-operation to stand up for the legal profession and rule of law.”