Uniform law scheme kicks off

01/07/2022 - 09:21

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The Law Society of WA has welcomed the commencement today of uniform law reforms, saying the changes will deliver benefits for both the profession and consumers.

Uniform law scheme kicks off
Rebecca Lee has welcomed the uniform scheme.

The Law Society of Western Australia has welcomed the commencement today of uniform law reforms, saying the changes will deliver benefits for both the profession and consumers.

The Legal Profession Uniform Law scheme comes into effect after more than a decade of debate and a three-year wait for the WA government to pass the enabling legislation.

President Rebecca Lee said the Law Society has been in favour of Western Australia adopting the uniform law scheme for many years.

"A single, uniform set of professional conduct rules providing inter-jurisdictional consistency can only benefit consumers of legal services, the legal profession and regulators, especially with national and international firms now being commonplace,” she said.

Ironically, the uniform scheme has won favour across Australia because it allows participating states to retain some local features.

Ms Lee said this was a critical aspect of the scheme.

“Under the initial proposal more than a decade ago, it was proposed there would be one body based on the east coast to regulate all legal practitioners,” she said.

“States like Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland were uncomfortable with that model.”

WA will retain several regulatory bodies, including the Legal Practice Board and the Legal Profession Complaints Committee.

Sitting above them will be a streamlined national body, the Legal Services Commission.

Western Australia will also retain some unique provisions, including the ability of a barrister to accept direct briefs on a pro bono basis without breaching the uniform law.

The uniform scheme is yet to win support in all states.

It commenced in New South Wales and Victoria in 2015, with WA being the third state to sign up.

WA has officially joined the scheme more than three years after it signed an agreement with NSW and Victoria.

One of the principal aims of the scheme is to reduce compliance costs for firms operating across participating states by simplifying and standardising regulatory obligations and creating a common market for legal services.

The scheme is also designed to provide consumers with greater protection and greater consistency of experience across jurisdictions.

Ms Lee said it would be particularly beneficial for national and international firms, as matters like admissions, dealing with complaints and gaining CPD points will be standardised.

She believes the new regime will also be easier for consumers.

“If there are any problems, say with legal costs, it will be a much easier process to raise it with the Legal Practice Board and have that dealt with efficiently rather than having to go to the Supreme Court and lodge the appropriate paperwork.”

WA’s entry to the uniform scheme means local data on complaints and admissions will soon be included in a national database.

This will enhance the ability compare WA’s performance with national trends.

Attorney General John Quigley said that joining the Legal Profession Uniform Law scheme was one of the most significant developments in WA’s justice system.

"It is a significant milestone in creating a simpler and more efficient system of regulating legal practice in Western Australia,” he said.

"I am pleased that this Government has been able to deliver this important reform."

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