Uniform practising certificates for Australian states and territories have gained support after a Victorian Government report recommended that inconsistencies in regulation of lawyers be eliminated.
The report also proposed that Victorian Government lawyers should be obliged to hold a practising certificate, because it is currently a requirement only in South Australia and the Northern Territory. The Law Institute of Victoria supports the changes.
Australian Corporate Lawyers Association chief executive Peter Turner told Lawyers Weekly that every practising lawyer in Australia ought to have a practising certificate, but that currently different jurisdictions have diverse rules, prices and requirements.
Turner said that consistency would remove doubt in relation to professional legal privilege and disciplinary procedures.
"In some judgments, some judges have indicated that the holding of a practising certificate will be one of the factors that they take into account when they assess a claim for legal professional privilege by a lawyer. So, if a lawyer hasn't got a practising certificate, that may count against him or her in a particular case," he said.
"But importantly too, holding a practice certificate generally means ... that it attracts a disciplinary regime as well. The issuing body ... has the right, because a certificate has been issued, to exercise authority over the individual who holds the certificate and, of course, it's very strange if the ethical, legal and disciplinary requirements are different in each state and each territory, as is currently the case. So you don't know where you stand."
The report, authored by Crown counsels John Lynch and Susan Campbell, said education requirements were another consideration important for government lawyers obtaining practising certificates.
Turner agreed with the authors and said mandatory legal education, rather than relying on in-house training being conducted for government lawyers, would ensure lawyers were kept abreast of developments in the field.
NSW legal services commissioner Steve Mark has also argued that the lines between government, private practice and in-house lawyers have been blurred and that national certificates should be required to improve professional ethics.
- Sarah Sharples