Concerns raised by law society presidents over a lack of information and consultation into the nationalisation of the legal profession should be alleviated as the process ramps up in the next six months, the Law Council of Australia (LCA) said on Friday.
In April this year, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed that they would consider draft legislation on uniform laws offering national regulation of the Australian legal profession within 12 months.
Last week, some incoming law society presidents told Lawyers Weekly that they were disappointed by the lack of information they have been circulated regarding the current proposals - as well as regarding what their future role in the regulation of the profession might look like.
John Corcoran, president of the LCA, told Lawyers Weekly that although there has been limited consultation with the state and territory law societies since the COAG announcement, he does expect these bodies to play a more fundamental role in the lead up to the release of the draft laws - expected in April next year.
He pointed out that a number of tiers are involved in the draft legislation development process including a taskforce - which had undertaken the bulk of the work so far and will prepare the draft legislation - and a consultative group made up of a number of different stakeholders, including various representatives from the state and territory law societies, to advise on and assist with the work of the taskforce.
"It is true that up until very recently the output from the taskforce down to the consultative group has been relatively limited. I have written to the taskforce suggesting that concern," he said.
Corcoran also noted that with the process due to finish in April 2010, the time for the consultative group to offer their support to the taskforce will be compressed.
"Obviously the taskforce is working hard and developing positions in a whole range of areas. Those positions are now starting to come down to the consultative group," he said.
"The concern was that it has now taken the best part of six months to get those issues down to them. Now that that's happening, I think a lot of the tension in that regard will come out [over the next six months].
Corcoran's comments follow the release this week of the LCA's response to the regulatory framework established by the taskforce in September. The response set out the views of the LCA's constituent bodies, its directors and chief executive offices on what they consider is an appropriate framework governing a national regulatory approach for the profession.
For the most part, the LCA supported the preferred model adopted by the taskforce: "This is a model about setting standards for the profession on quite particular things like the national standard for continuing professional development, and the national standard for professional indemnity insurance," he said.