A steering group on national legal profession reform has been set-up and will be meeting in Melbourne today (8 March).
Despite half of the eight state and territory jurisdictions refusing to support the reform process, today’s meeting will have one representative from every state and territory law society. They will be joined by two representatives from the Australian Bar Association, the president of the Law Council of Australia (LCA), Catherine Gale, and Stuart Clark, the chairman of the Large Law Firm Group. Clark is the chief operating officer and managing partner, international, at Clayton Utz.
“The steering group is concerned with immediate implementation issues, such as the appointment of suitably qualified people to the Board, so we can get the national profession up and functioning in the four jurisdictions that are going to participate,” said LCA president Catherine Gale when speaking to Lawyers Weekly.
In October last year, then Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced that New South Wales would host the National Legal Services Board and National legal Services Commissioner that will be established under the reforms.
NSW, Victoria, and the Northern Territory have all given strong support to the reform process, with Queensland’s continued support post the state election on 24 March the subject of continued speculation.
Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory remain opponents of the reforms.
Gale said that despite having half of the state and territory law societies opposed to the reform agenda as it currently stands, there is still enough support to ensure its successful implementation.
“The three major eastern seaboard states and the Northern Territory comprise 85 per cent of practising lawyers in Australia, so what we will have is a significant step towards a truly national profession,” she said.
The steering group was formed last December, and today’s meeting marks the second time it has met.
For a feature report on national legal profession reform, including in-depth interviews with Catherine Gale, Stuart Clark and Ralph Bonig, the president of the Law Society of South Australia, see Lawyers Weekly 572 on 16 March