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National reform in doubt

National reform in doubt

Both Western Australia and South Australia have voiced their opposition to the proposed scheme for national reform of the legal profession.At the second meeting of the Standing Committee of…

Both Western Australia and South Australia have voiced their opposition to the proposed scheme for national reform of the legal profession.

At the second meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) for 2010 on 10 December, the states of Western Australia and South Australia failed to support the proposed scheme, and have raised concerns with many aspects of the proposed reforms.

Following the release of the draft national legislation for uniform laws for public consultation this year, the Law Society of Western Australia voiced its concerns about the independence of the legal profession under the new system and the potential for WA consumers to pay higher costs for legal services as a result of the new framework.

Just last month, the WA Legal Practice Board thumbed its nose at the national legal reform process and released its own set of conduct rules, rather than implement guidelines recommended by the Law Council of Australia (LCA).

Queensland also noted its concern about funding arrangements at the meeting, while Victoria supported in principle the desirability of a national legal profession but reserved its position on the details of the model to be placed before COAG.

In a letter to the National Legal Profession Taskforce in August 2010, Queensland Law Society president Peter Eardley noted the concerns of the QLS which relate to "the potential increase in regulatory and compliance costs" which he said are "a particular concern in a state in which the profession is geographically very wide-spread".

At the SCAG meeting the Ministers also agreed to ask COAG to release the Legal Profession National Law Bill and National Rules publicly after consideration by the COAG Business Regulation and Competition Working Group.

COAG has until early 2011 to sign off on the reform package.

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