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National reform addresses foreign lawyers

National reform addresses foreign lawyers

Attorney-General Robert McClelland has announced further areas of reform to the legal profession aimed at boosting Australia's reputation internationally including changes to the admission…

Attorney-General Robert McClelland has announced further areas of reform to the legal profession aimed at boosting Australia's reputation internationally including changes to the admission requirements of foreign lawyers and the encouragement of volunteering.

Speaking in Brisbane at the Queensland Law Society's 48th Annual Vincents' Symposium, the Attorney-General announced plans to include better arrangements for foreign lawyers practicing in Australia as a means to boost the competitiveness of Australian lawyers in the international legal services market.

He explained how the current disparate regulation of the profession creates "a significant impediment to foreign lawyers working in Australia" and that a number of international counterparts have expressed their reluctance to open their legal markets to Australia because it would be "like dealing with eight different countries".

McClelland discussed the complex process that foreign lawyers currently have to undergo to be admitted in Australia and the very restrictive entry standards involved. "Under the current system, foreign lawyers are often required to complete undergraduate subjects in Australian law before they can be admitted, regardless of their experience and the subjects' relevance to the area in which they want to practice," McClelland said.

Noting that the current restrictive entry standards discourage internationally experienced lawyers from working in Australia, McClelland also recognised that the inconsistency between jurisdictions in assessment processes and subsequent requirements are "unnecessary and create forum shopping".

To address this issue McClelland said that the draft Bill will propose a new option of "conditional admission" for foreign lawyers, which will allow foreign lawyers to practice in Australia either for a particular period of time, or for practice only in a specified area of the law.

"This will, in turn, increase both the availability of quality services to Australian consumers and boost Australia's reputation internationally," McClelland said.

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