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Fair Work Ombudsman to use own lawyers

Fair Work Ombudsman to use own lawyers

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has gained approval to use its own legal team to conduct all its civil penalty litigations. The Federal Government has granted the national employment regulator a…

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has gained approval to use its own legal team to conduct all its civil penalty litigations.

The Federal Government has granted the national employment regulator a 12-month exemption from the Legal Services Directions 2005.

While Attorney-General Robert McClelland first approved the use of in-house lawyers in 2008 for court matters involving employee underpayments, the approval has now been broadened to allow the FWO's legal team to run all its cases.

In addition, in-house lawyers will be able to conduct enforcement proceedings to recover outstanding court penalties.

The FWO currently has a team of 37 lawyers headed by its Sydney-based chief counsel, Janine Webster.

Formerly the agency's executive director of national litigation, Webster's team comprises a director of legal practice, special counsel, seven principal lawyers, 12 senior lawyers, 16 lawyers and four support staff.

Although she does not intend to use her in-house team for every matter, Webster said it is important for the agency to have the flexibility to do so where appropriate.

"There will always be a need for external firms to conduct some of our work where it is outside our expertise or existing resources don't permit the proper conduct of the matter," said Webster.

"However, in a specialised environment such as our own, that should be the exception rather than the rule and when we do, we will expect value for money."

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