National Legal Profession Reform Project
A project to harmonise legal regulation across Australia is currently being undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments.
In April 2009 COAG established a Taskforce and a Consultative Group to achieve this goal. The Taskforce was charged with the role of developing draft legislation to facilitate uniformity. The Consultative Group was established to advise and assist the taskforce.
On 14 May 2010 the Taskforce release a National Legal Reform Consultation package. The package included a draft Legal Profession National Law, draft Legal Profession National Rules, a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement and a Consultation Report.
A public consultation period ran from 14 May 2010 to 13 August 2010.
For more information about the National Profession Project see http://www.ag.gov.au/legalprofession
National Disciplinary Register
A number of jurisdictions in Australia have enacted legislation requiring information about disciplinary action taken against a practitioner to be made public. In some jurisdictions the legislation requires that the register be made available to the public and made available on the regulators website. Accordingly regulators have set up disciplinary registers on their website where required.
CORO is currently involved in developing a National Disciplinary Register. The Register once active will contain information concerning disciplinary action taken by each of the regulators within Australia.
The National Register will not record complaints against practitioners. It will simply collate the information that is recorded on the state based disciplinary registers pursuant to the local Legal Profession Acts. A record is only made when an action such as a public reprimand, the appointment of a manager or the removal of a practising certificate is taken.
CORO is of the view that a national register will assist in the move towards legal profession regulation in a national market and have a major impact on assisting consumers to legal services to make informed choices about their lawyers. It is also hoped that the register would act as an incentive to the profession to develop mechanisms that reduce disciplinary action being taken.
We are now working on constructing the National Disciplinary Register.
Regulation of Incorporated Legal Practices (ILPs)
At the 2005 CORO Conference in Adelaide the regulators agreed that where possible, consistency of regulatory approach should be applied. In particular, it was agreed that the New South Wales model of regulating incorporated legal practices through the self-assessment process and the ten point plan would be adopted Australia wide. This will allow national firms which incorporate to face only one regulatory regime.
This approach has been confirmed at subsequent CORO Conferences.
National Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Guidelines
A National CPD Taskforce was formed in November 2005 at the suggestion of the Queensland Law Society to consider whether national guidelines should be developed to identify areas where harmonisation of the various schemes might be achieved. The Taskforce agreed that it was necessary to minimise the differences between schemes where ever possible, not only for consistency with the spirit of national reform but also because of the real hardships, costs and inconveniences that flow from the differences between the schemes.
In August 2006 the Taskforce produced a draft set of CPD Guidelines. The Guidelines were presented and discussed at last November’s CORO Conference in Sydney and they have now been sent to all of the Bar Associations and Law Societies in Australia for comment and hopefully implementation.
The Councils of the Law Societies of NSW and Queensland as well as the Legal Practice Board in Victoria have all recently met to consider the Guidelines and each has agreed to adopt them by 1 April 2009.