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Mallesons head urges flexibility in consumer law revamp

Mallesons head urges flexibility in consumer law revamp

The Large Law Firm Group has welcomed the Australian Government's blueprint for national reform but has warned against a "one size fits all" approach to new regulatory structures.Robert…

The Large Law Firm Group has welcomed the Australian Government's blueprint for national reform but has warned against a "one size fits all" approach to new regulatory structures.

Robert Milliner, chair of the group and chief executive partner of Mallesons Stephen Jaques, said there was support for revision of existing consumer protections.

However, there were dangers in attempting to apply the same consumer protection provisions across the board, considering differences in bargaining power, he said.

"The corporate client base of a large law firm clearly involves a different type of legal consumer than an individual who engages a small firm on a matter," he said.

"Corporate clients have the knowledge, and often the preference, to negotiate commercial arrangements on an individual basis with their legal service provider and this should be reflected in the regulatory approach of the national model."

Milliner said any new regulations should include flexibility.

"For example, by adopting a definition of 'consumer' which distinguishes between major consumers and individuals or small businesses, or an 'opt out' provision that can be selected by clients so that they and their clients do not face a compliance regime that is irrelevant for their corporate client base," he said.

"The Government needs to be wary of replacing one type of red tape with another. A 'one-size-fits-all' approach isn't appropriate when the operating models of firms vary so widely."

The LLFG also urged the Government to take close account of the global legal landscape when undertaking reform of the profession.

"The LLFG believes there is a significant opportunity to improve the efficiency of the current regulatory systems, but change must occur against the backdrop of emerging global competition issues," he said.

However, the LLFG remained open-minded about proposals for a national legal services board and an ombudsman, Milliner said.

The group, formed in 2007, is made up of Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Deacons, DLA Phillips Fox, Freehills, Mallesons Stephen Jacques and Minter Ellison.

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