IT'S a problem the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, and a host of other high profile legal professionals have attempted to solve. Now, the Chief Justice of Western Australia, Wayne Martin, has highlighted the need for a national regulation of the legal profession.
Covering among other things the various considerations that might inform deliberations, Chief Justice Martin said "it is relatively easy to say that there is too much regulation of the legal profession in Australia".
The federal Attorney General Robert McClellend today chimed in on the issue, while in Perth, saying a "disparate approach" means legislation regulating the profession ranges from 130 pages to almost 900 pages.
"Overall, consumers, lawyers and firms have to deal with nearly 5,000 pages of regulation. On top of this there are a range of other regulations which national firms have to comply with."
He said recent reports indicate that Australia's nine largest national law firms waste nearly $15 million each year duplicating procedures for each jurisdiction's requirements.
"That's hardly an intelligent or sustainable outcome for any profession," A-G McClelland said.
Both legal eagles are speaking as part of Law Week, currently being held in Western Australia.
The Chief Justice looked at the policing and punitive model of regulation, and said his experience assisting Justice Owen in the HIH inquiry made it clear that even in the heavily regulated financial services sector, it is impossible to have "a regulator sitting at the elbow of everybody engaged in the conduct of the business".
He added that there is mounting evidence to suggest that those responsible for the regulation of the profession have failed to inculcate it with adherence to appropriate ethical and moral standards.
The Prime Minister and the Attorney General have previously announced the creation of a taskforce charged with the responsibility for planning the national regulation of the legal profession.
They said the current regulation was "overly complex and inconsistent, with up to 55 different regulators across the country".
National regulation of the legal profession would benefit firms, lawyers and consumers, they said, and would enjoy increased competition, reduced compliance costs and billing arrangements that are more transparent.
Lawyers would be able to move between jurisdictions and firms would be able to be more competitive in both national and international arenas, they said.
See the Chief Justice's speech here: http://www.supremecourt.wa.gov.au/publications/pdf/Conference_of_Regulatory_Officers20090916.pdf