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​CEO's end of year message


Date issued: Tuesday, 13 December 2016

As we head towards the holiday period, I would like to take a moment to reflect on a busy and productive year for the Legal Services Council and for my office. This year we've made a number of significant steps towards a united legal profession in Australia, operating under the same law.

I have also been buoyed by the great spirit of cooperation and collaboration between the regulatory authorities in Victoria and NSW under the framework given by the Uniform Law. The renewed relationship between the participating States is extremely encouraging, as is the expanded willingness to exchange and contribute constructive ideas since the Uniform Law was adopted.

Over the year, a number of amendments have been made to the Uniform Law as well as some rule changes to improve its operation.

Of particular note are:

  • On 11 March, the LSC issued a Costs Estimates Guideline and Direction to DLRAs on the obligation for law practices to provide an estimate of total legal costs and keep this updated. The Commissioner issued a similar Guideline and Direction for Chapter 5 of the Uniform Law related to dispute resolution and professional discipline. The information that we have is that the legal profession is now becoming well accustomed to complying with this obligation.  It is great news for consumers and for the standing of the profession.

  • During the year we have introduced a new costs disclosure rule designed to ensure clients of law practices are kept well informed about the services they access and the costs they are likely to incur, but also to encourage law practices to comply.  The LSC believes that the process of continuous costs disclosure is beneficial for law practices to help practitioners engage and build good business relationships with their clients.  I am confident that the great experience that practitioners have about the risks involved in legal work make them well equipped to keep their clients informed whilst balancing these risks. The new Rule 72A (the so-called Anti Voiding Rule) was made on 22 April.
  • From 1 July and until further notice, minimum standards will continue to apply to Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) policies of practitioners from non-participating States and Territories working in the Uniform Law jurisdictions. 

  • On 3 November, four important practical ame​ndments were made to the Uniform Law.
    • Under Section 70(1) the amendment to partnerships of Australian-registered foreign lawyers, allows Australian-registered foreign lawyers to practise foreign law in partnerships solely comprising Australian-registered foreign lawyers.
    • The inclusion of section 299(1)(g) in section 82(1)(c) ensures that DLRAs now have the power to vary, suspend or cancel a practising certificate on a recommendation of a complaint handling body where there has been a finding that the lawyer has engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct. 
    • Section 465(4) has been amended so that the duty to report suspected serious offences under the Uniform Law no longer falls on a person who is a member of staff but remains for their organisations.
    • Financial statements of the LSC and Commissioner can now be combined into a single report rather than two sets of accounts being required for each body.

In other work of note, Stage 1 of the Data Exchange Project was completed. The result of this can be seen in my Annual Report as Commissioner. The project involved the development of the LSC Uniform Law database. This includes information from NSW Bar Association, NSW Law Society, OLSC and VLSB+C and operates with their full cooperation and support. The database will serve as a repository of information and knowledge about the legal profession, identifying trends and demonstrating progress towards uniformity between the participating States under the Uniform Law.

We have continued to engage with stakeholders and community groups, with two consultative forums held this year in Melbourne and Sydney. They brought a number of important issues into the spotlight, including an Australian Legal Profession Register, how we can improve costs disclosure and other matters.

We have also developed branding for the Legal Profession Uniform Law which is currently reflected in our online fact sheets. The distinctive Southern Cross logo reflects the tagline of "towards uniform regulation of the Australian legal profession" and can be used in every jurisdiction covered by the Uniform Law.   

In October, Julia Langham, our new communications officer, joined the Secretariat. Julia brings several years of Government communications experience to the team and we look forward to working with her to ensure our stakeholders are kept well informed.

On behalf of the Chair, the Hon. Michael Black AC QC and the Legal Services Council, I wish to thank our stakeholders for their valuable contributions during the year and for the ongoing spirit of cooperation and collaboration. I would like to wish you and your loved ones a relaxing, safe and happy Christmas and good tidings for 2017.

 

Dale Boucher
CEO Legal Services Council
Commissioner for Uniform Legal Services Regulation​