LAWYERS FROM around Australia will now be able to practise in Queensland. While the Federal Government hesitated last week in announcing a national legal profession, and postponed its official beginnings to a later date, Queensland pushed ahead and cut the ribbon itself, giving the go ahead for lawyers to be able to operate across state borders.
The long awaited reforms will allow lawyers from other states to operate in Queensland without a Queensland practising certificate. And, suggesting a truly national profession is not far off, the Queensland Government said the same rights should soon also be afforded to Queensland lawyers.
The reforms are part of a new national approach to the legal profession brought about through cooperation between the states.
The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) recently framed model provisions, which would pave the way for all the states and territories to begin implementing the National Profession Model Bill.
The model provisions were expected early last week, but Queensland jumped ahead of the other states and announced it would be going ahead with implementing the first stages of a national legal services market.
The changes are said to reflect the reality of a modern legal system and could result in more major law firms setting up headquarters in the state.
“It will further enhance Queensland’s Smart State business environment by making it easier for the nation’s biggest law firms to come and operate here,” Premier Peter Beattie told parliament last week.
Law Council president Bob Gotterson said that for the last decade the Council had been championing regulatory reform to facilitate the national practice of the law. As the country teetered on full-blown legal reforms, Gotterson said: “We applaud the commitment by Commonwealth, state and territory Attorneys-General to removing significant barriers to interstate legal practice and allowing greater competition within the market.”
The reforms would provide combined benefits for legal service consumers, improving choice and competition, Beattie and Attorney-General Rod Welford said.
“This new national approach will protect consumers by ensuring there are consistent professional standards across all jurisdictions,” Beattie said. For example, a lawyer who has been struck off in one state will not be able to just move into another state to practise there.
Law firms will be able to establish multi-disciplinary practices under the new reforms, enabling them to bring other professional services under the same roof.
Perhaps a reaction to the recent demise of KPMG Legal and fears over audit independence, Beattie said there would be safeguards in place to ensure only “appropriate links” are created and there are no “obvious conflicts”.
Welford said he expected to announce Queensland’s first Legal Services Commissioner, to manage all complaints about lawyers, within the next month.