AS AUSTRALIA prepares itself for a truly national profession, the countdown for which seems to be taking its time, Queensland’s State Parliament has approved legal reforms that will ensure the State’s participation in a new national scheme of legal profession regulation.
The Legal Profession Act 2004 combined benefits for consumers with greater protection, said Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Rod Welford.
“They will improve protection for legal consumers by ensuring there are nationally consistent rules governing professional conduct,” Welford said.
“For example, a lawyer who has been struck off or suspended in one state will not be able to practise in another state,” he said.
There will be mutual recognition of qualifications with lawyers from other states able to operate in Queensland, and Queensland lawyers will be afforded recognition in other states.
The reforms will allow law firms to establish multi-disciplinary practices, with several professional services under the same roof.
“However, there will be safeguards in place to ensure only appropriate links are created and there are no obvious conflicts,” Welford said.
The reforms are the second stage of Queensland’s modernisation of its legal profession. “These changes reflect the reality of our modern legal system,” he said.
“Last year, we introduced a new complaints and discipline regime to bring greater independence, accountability and transparency to the regulation of the profession.”
The State will introduce a Legal Services Commission to receive and manage all complaints as part of the new regime.
Also, a Legal Practice Tribunal will be set up. Chaired by a Supreme Court judge, it will hear serious matters which could involve a lawyer being struck off or suspended.
As well, a Legal Practice Committee will hear minor charges of unsatisfactory professional conduct.