The Law Council of Australia has written to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Taskforce expressing its concerns regarding the National Legal Profession Reform Project consultation package.
Following a meeting of its constituent bodies, the Law Council wrote a letter to Roger Wilkins, the chair of the COAG Taskforce, highlighting three areas of concern.
The first issue raised by the Law Council was the composition of the National Legal Services Board. Law Council President Glenn Ferguson stated that the majority of the Board must be drawn from the legal profession and be appointed independently of Government.
"The profession has stated clearly that the independence of the profession remains the single most important issue," he said.
"The Law Council's preference is for a seven-member board to comprise two members nominated by the Law Council; one member nominated by the Australian Bar Association; one member nominated by the Council of Chief Justices; and three nominated by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) - we support the position of the Chief Justice that their nominee should chair the Board."
The second major issue is the role of the SCAG and its ability to give policy direction to the Board and Ombudsman.
"The view of the legal profession is both of these entities must be free to discharge their statutory duties independently and free from ministerial direction and control," Ferguson said.
The third issue of concern for the Law Council is the cost of the new regulatory scheme. The profession agrees with the Taskforce Consultation document that the cost of the new regulatory bodies should be met from rationalisation of the existing regulatory bodies and not by a levy on practising certificates.
Of particular importance to the profession is the need for assurances that the allocation of interest from single national trust accounts continues to flow back to local public purpose funds.
"To ensure the profession is able to adequately respond to this area of the reform, detailed costings must be made available well before the end of the consultation period on 13 August," Ferguson added.
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