The appointment of the chair of the proposed seven-member National Legal Services Board will require the approval of the legal profession, according to the latest taskforce report.
The National Legal Profession Taskforce today (9 November) released an Interim Report on Key Issues and Funding in the legal profession reform project, addressing the constitution of the proposed national board and the concern that it may undermine the independence of the profession.
The interim report outlines the revised position of the taskforce following three months of extensive consultation, during which the Law Council of Australia (LCA) and members of the legal profession emphasised the need to ensure the board represents a balance between members of the profession and those with broader skills and experience.
Two members of the proposed board will be appointed on the recommendation of the LCA; one member will be appointed on the recommendation of the Australian Bar Association (ABA); and three members will be appointed on the recommendation of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG).
The seventh member, the chair, will be appointed on the recommendation of SCAG on the condition that it has consulted with the LCA president, the ABA president and a member of the Council of Chief Justices (CCJ) - who all must have had an opportunity to nominate candidates for the chair. The SCAG must not recommend a person without the concurrence of the LCA president, the ABA president and the member for the CCJ.
In addition, according to the interim report, the SCAG must ensure that the members are appointed so that, as far as practicable, the members are representative of all state and territory jurisdictions and reflect a balance of expertise. Over each cycle of two terms at least one member must be drawn from each state and territory jurisdiction.
Aside from the make-up of the new board, the report also addresses issues such as the need for a National Legal Services ombudsman or commissioner and the funding for the proposed national regulatory bodies.
The LCA, which has made comment on the discussion papers and the consultation package since its release in May this year, has welcomed the proposals in the Interim Report.
"On initial review, I am pleased with the report which does address a number of the major issues the Law Council raised in relation to the reform," said LCA president Glenn Ferguson.
"The Law Council will be discussing its options with directors in relation to how it will respond to and address issues relating to the reform process moving forward."
The taskforce will present its final proposals to COAG by the end of 2010, but COAG will not be asked to endorse the package until early 2011.