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The problem of a national profession

The problem of a national profession

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As ongoing dialogue around the details of a national legal profession continues to frustrate the national Attorney-General, the roles of the Law Council and the state attorneys is debated in our national newspapers.

Kevin Rudd would scrap the existing framework of professional regulation and start over with a new, simplified model, The Australian reported. Gaps between the states on matters ranging from professional indemnity insurance to cost-disclosure and trust were costing law firms across borders and their clients millions of dollars a year. Federal Attorney-general Robert McClelland warned the federal government would “take charge of drafting the new laws” and threatened a takeover of powers if the states could not agree. NSW state Attorney-General John Hatzistergos wants to “play a major role” and will have a draft bill ready by April. Lawyers, meanwhile, continue to urge federal and state leaders to iron out differences across state borders that cause “inefficiencies” and “drive up the cost of doing business”.     

Rolling all law societies into one national body would cause “greater disenfranchisement, leading to more lobby groups and a reduced membership”, said Queensland Law Society president Ian Berry in The Australian Financial Review. “If the Law Council of Australia (LCA) took over, you might not get the 90 per cent [rate of membership]. You might get 60 per cent, although overall probably representing more lawyers nationally. I think you’ll lose a greater percentage simply because some people will just feel disenfranchised.” Mr Berry said the LCA has “wanted for some time to have our register” and that it wanted to speak to the Queensland members directly. Large firms had threatened to pull financial support from law societies unless they have more power to the LCA and “stopped pushing for parochial changes to model laws aimed at creating a national profession”.      

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