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Case study: Campaigning on Uniform Law

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.87

The LIV's advocacy has protected and preserved members' interests around the introduction of Uniform Law. 

The LIV has long supported a national legal profession. The LIV has worked with government, regulators and other law societies to take the first step on the road to a national legal profession; namely the Legal Profession Uniform Law which commenced in Victoria and NSW on 1 July 2015.

The Uniform Law affects each of the LIV’s three primary functions – to advocate on law reform, support members, and contribute to the regulation of the legal profession.

In 2015, the LIV’s advocacy on the Uniform Law has protected and preserved members’ interests in two distinct phases: advocacy before the commencement of the Uniform Law and advocating after the start of the Uniform Law.

In the first phase, the LIV’s focus was ensuring that lawyers could continue to practise on 1 July 2015. The LIV worked with members, government and regulators to achieve the following amendments:

  • preserving the business structure of partnerships of incorporated legal practices. Without this amendment, members operating in this structure would have been forced to restructure their practices, leading to significant and unnecessary costs and inconvenience
  • extending the time for government lawyers to obtain practising certificates. Without this amendment, government lawyers and the Legal Services Board faced unnecessary administrative burdens and government lawyers may not have been able to practise on 1 July 2015
  • preserving a solicitor’s right to rely on and recover the costs in an itemised bill where that bill is issued and costed after a lump sum bill has been provided. Without this amendment, lawyers who issued lump sum bills (to the benefit of clients) would have been disadvantaged if that bill was later disputed and costed.
  • In the second phase, the LIV has been listening to members and advocating on the following issues:

  • costs estimates and, in particular, the extent to which staged estimates can be used to provide a range of costs
  • relief from the provision which voids a costs agreement where there is non-compliance with the cost disclosure provisions (especially where the non-compliance was innocent or inadvertent)
  • the rule requiring original receipts to be provided for all deposits into a trust account, even where they are not requested by the depositor or are originally electronic.
  • Each of these issues has a different solution – some require legislative amendment, others can be addressed through regulatory guidance or amendments to the Rules.

    Since this is a uniform scheme, each issue requires cooperation and coordination between Victorian and NSW lawyers. The LIV continues to work closely with the Law Society of NSW through a collaborative relationship that is benefiting lawyers in both states.

    All the participants – government, regulators, law societies – are being open and collaborative in addressing concerns with the Uniform Law. Government and regulators have listened and we will continue to discuss your concerns with them.

    If you have any concerns and/or positive experiences about the operation of the Uniform Law, please contact us at lpul@liv.asn.au. We will continue to raise your concerns while ensuring that positive features of the law are not disturbed. Regulation of the legal profession is necessary to protect the public. However, it should be appropriate regulation, not red tape which unnecessarily increases the costs of legal practice, particularly with the emerging challenges of Asian engagement and digital disruption. We should all work together to ensure the Uniform Law’s promise of enabling all Australian lawyers to grasp these opportunities comes to fruition.

    Katie Miller, LIV president

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