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Time will heal legal reform problems

Time will heal legal reform problems

The shortcomings of the proposed national legal profession reform will have to be sorted out once legislation is passed supporting the reform's structure, according to Roger Wilkins, the…

The shortcomings of the proposed national legal profession reform will have to be sorted out once legislation is passed supporting the reform's structure, according to Roger Wilkins, the secretary of the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department.

Addressing an audience of in-house lawyers at the ACLA National Conference on Friday (12 November), Wilkins said that he and the National Legal Profession Taskforce have "been going around this long enough".

"We've got to land this plane and we can't solve all the problems. Hopefully, we've left enough room for the legal services board to do so," he said.

"We're leaving flexibility to sort out issues rather than prescribe them in the law," he said.

Wilkins added that he expects, once legislation is passed supporting the scheme, it will naturally evolve to iron out the details in the future.

He said that such evolution will assist in the cost-saving benefits of the reform because the proposal, as it stands today, "will not offer huge savings in terms of rolling up regulatory bodies".

Wilkins made the comments following the release of an Interim Report on Key Issues and Funding on legal profession reform last week that proposed the seven-member National Legal Services Board be made up of lawyers, barristers and individuals nominated by the Standing Committee of Attorneys General.

"We've taken it about as far as we can and retained a consensus," he said. "It's now about as co-regulatory as it can get."

But Wilkins did note that he had found "bemusing" the level of controversy the debate regarding the composition of the legal services board created.

He was also surprised by the level of discussion over just what the national ombudsman would be called.

"I'm quite happy to call it a piano if that gets it across the line," he said.

Wilkins also conceded that the ombudsman will have less power than originally anticipated, and the overall scheme would be less centralised. "That is a significant concession to local boards, but I don't think it deviates from the overall aim of what were getting at," he said.

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