Lawyers are the most over-regulated professional group in Australia, according to Law Council of Australia President John Corcoran.
Speaking at the annual State of the Profession address at the 36th Australian Legal Convention in Perth on 19 September, Corcoran vowed to fight the second stage of anti-money laundering (AML) reforms, remove dual regulation for migration lawyers and implement changes to international admission rules.
Corcoran said pending AML reforms would add yet another layer of complexity to regulation of the legal profession, putting Australia out of step with international AML regulation in Canada, Japan and the US.
"The Australian legal profession has benefited from the Law Council's efforts to gain exemptions for lawyers under Stage One of the AML legislation, which primarily targeted the financial sector," he said.
"The Stage Two reforms, we believe, should not target legal services in general, nor low-risk services or clients."
Access to justice and legal aid funding was also high on Corcoran's agenda.
"The Law Council believes the legal assistance sector is facing an impending crisis over the coming 12 months as a result of the increased strain on legal aid services arising from the global financial crisis as well as other factors," he said.
"Lawyers working in this sector must receive reasonable compensation. If this does not occur, we run a serious risk of losing more lawyers in the legal assistance sector."
Corcoran painted a bleak picture of the future for regional and rural practitioners, citing the findings of a recent Law Council survey that revealed 42 per cent of the rural legal practitioners surveyed do not intend to practise law in five years' time.
"Unless we address current and future lawyer shortages, there will be a dramatic impact on access to justice throughout regional Australia," he said.
Since the last State of the Profession Speech was delivered by former Law Council president Tim Bugg in March 2007, the Law Council has made more than 220 submissions on a variety of legal issues, including tax law and family law, cartel conduct, anti-money laundering, migration law and Indigenous issues.
The Law Council has also stepped up its campaigning in the media, releasing 25 media releases between 1 January and 31 August this year.
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