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WA lawyers riled over threats to independence

WA lawyers riled over threats to independence

The Law Society of Western Australia says the state's lawyers are facing a threat to their independence and exposure to higher costs.

THE Law Society of Western Australia says the state’s lawyers are facing a threat to their independence and exposure to higher costs as new federal laws are being weighed up by the profession and the public.

The Federal Attorney General’s release of the National Legal Profession Reform Project draft bill and consultation package raises three challenges to the future of the legal profession in Western Australia, the Law Society said today.

The professional body’s president Hylton Quail said the draft Bill may expose the profession and consumers of legal services to “significantly higher costs”. He said the Society would not support the proposed laws in their current state.

Quail also raised concerns about the future independence of the legal profession if the laws were passed.

“The independence of the legal profession cannot be compromised and the majority of members of the proposed National Legal Services Board must be appointed by the profession. A vital part of having an independent legal profession is that its members set the standards of professional conduct. This contrasts with the draft Bill which proposes the majority of regulatory board members are appointed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General,” the Law Society said today.

It also raised concerns that disciplinary proceedings for WA practitioners will be moved to Canberra with the establishment of a National Legal Services Ombudsman.

The Society’s concerns echo many of those raised today by State Attorney General Christian Porter at the Law Week Luncheon, an annual event presented by the Law Society of Western Australia.

“We will not give up independence and control of the profession to government, we will not agree to be disciplined from Canberra and we will not agree to Western Australian consumers paying more for legal services because the costs of practice increase,” said Quail.



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