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From the CEO: Reforms welcomed

Every Issue

Cite as: (2009) 83(03) LIJ, p.6

The federal government's move to reform legal profession regulation will boost the economy.

The LIV welcomes Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's announcement that legal profession reform will be part of federal government moves to strengthen Australia's economy.

In a joint statement with the Minister for Finance and Deregulation Lindsay Tanner, federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that pursuing this reform was part of the government's ongoing micro-economic reform agenda.

As Australia looks at ways in which it can withstand the current global financial crisis, last month's statement is recognition that the legal profession is an important component of the economy.

The legal services industry is a powerful economic force. In 2001-02, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated the profession generated $7.8 billion, representing 1.1 per cent of Australia's GDP.

The International Legal Services Advisory Council reported in September 2007 that Australian legal services accounted for $543.2 million in export and cross-border activity for the 2004-05 financial year.

Any spending in the legal services area will be of short and long-term benefit to the Australian economy. Thus, reform of legislation governing the legal profession must not be delayed.

Reform should focus on providing an effective, robust and streamlined legal infrastructure that meets the needs of our modern Australian economy and society.

Current regulation of the legal profession is overly complex, inconsistent between national and state jurisdictions and a disincentive to business.

As we aim for a consistent and workable national model for the legal profession, there needs to be a simple and uniform regulatory framework.

Lawyers increasingly operate across state and national borders. Remove unnecessary barriers to cross-border practice (and the costs associated with this) and consumers and the economy will benefit.

This issue is not just about large firms. It is also about border towns. Our members in Wodonga/Albury, Swan Hill, Mildura and other towns that dot the NSW and South Australian borders know how frustrating and time-consuming the different regulations make their work.

At the same time as the LIV welcomes the federal government's commitment to legal profession reform, we urge both the federal and state governments to invest financially in Victoria's legal infrastructure.

Construction projects, including the planning and building of much needed court premises such as a new Supreme Court, would assist in providing high quality legal services.

Victoria is currently losing legal work to the Federal Court and New South Wales as a result of the lack of state-of-the art technological infrastructure in our ageing Supreme Court.

Similarly, legal aid is an important part of the legal infrastructure and there is an urgent need for government to spend money in this vital area.

Legal aid funding expenditure will flow quickly back into the economy, creating the required stimulus for economic recovery and growth.

The LIV will keep members informed as the government review process unfolds, and I encourage all practitioners to participate in the legal profession reform process.

Mike Brett Young
CEO, Law Institute of Victoria


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