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From the CEO : End in sight

Every Issue

Cite as: (2003) 77(9) LIJ, p.6

After three years and several separate reports, it is good news for the profession that the review of regulation of the legal system in Victoria is nearing an end.

State Attorney-General Rob Hulls announced his scheme for regulation of the legal profession in late July. It is not an issue that occupies much attention in the broader community; however, it is one that concerns the profession and the consumers of legal services.

The Attorney-General’s media release[*] gives the widest overview of how he intends the new system to operate.

In broad terms, the scheme involves the establishment of a Legal Services Commissioner who will be the CEO of the Legal Services Board. The board will in turn be the peak body in regulation and responsible for funding, policy setting, and all non-disciplinary regulation. It will be made up of representatives of the legal profession (three), representatives of the community (three) and have an independent chair.

The commissioner will manage the staff resources for the board and oversee complaints. The Legal Profession Tribunal will be replaced by a Legal Practice List within the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The Law Institute and the Victorian Bar will retain responsibility for making rules of practice and continue to have a role in making ethics rulings. It will be within the power of the commissioner and the board to delegate any of its functions to the Institute and the Bar.

At this stage we have no further information on the detail of the scheme. It is not anticipated that there will be legislation before the Parliament until April or May next year, with a start-up date some six to nine months after that.

The Attorney-General has committed to establishing a group to assist in the implementation of the new scheme. It will have representatives of all stakeholders. The proposal’s success will depend heavily on the ability of this group to get it right.

The Victorian Bill will be one of the first pieces of legislation to be passed by state Parliament which combines the results of the national profession project with the state-based regulatory scheme.

The proposals announced by the Attorney-General are in line with what is currently operating in New South Wales and what is proposed in Queensland.

This approach is to be applauded as centralising all aspects of regulation within the supervision of the commissioner and board will avoid expensive and wasteful duplication.

Institute staff will work with the government to ensure that the system put in place works effectively and efficiently in the long-term. Hopefully, this process in Victoria can set the template for all other states for an efficient and streamlined regulatory process.

I will report in more detail as to the development of the legislation and keep the profession informed about these issues. The next phase is critical.

Mandatory professional development

This journal has previously reported on the proposal for mandatory continuing professional development (CPD). In February this year, the Attorney-General announced that if the legal profession did not address the issue of CPD, then he would legislate to do so.

The mandatory CPD issue has been debated vigorously by the Institute over the past decade. Legal education has always been supported, but concern has been expressed about the effects of making it compulsory.

With the Attorney-General’s announcement, the LIV Council set about developing a workable set of rules. The rules were circulated widely in June and much feedback was received from the profession. In July, Council agreed in principle to approve the concept of mandatory CPD. The rules were finally submitted to Council and approved at its August meeting.

Practitioners ought to be in no doubt that mandatory CPD will be a feature of legal practice from 1 January 2004. Practitioners will be required to complete a declaration, to be forwarded with their application for renewal of practising certificate, confirming their attendance at not less than 10 hours of legal education in the previous year.

The practitioner will be expected to complete this declaration for the first time with the renewal of practising certificates in 2005.

Maintaining the highest possible standards for the legal profession in Victoria is very important. In the coming months we will provide the profession with more information about the requirements of mandatory CPD.

John Cain

jcain@liv.asn.au


[*] A copy of the Attorney-General’s media release is available from http://www.justice.vic.gov.au.

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