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Law Council of Australia: Future in focus for 2018

Law Council of Australia: Future in focus for 2018

By Morry Bailes

Education Planning Practice & Procedure 

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The LCA will continue to advocate vigorously at a federal level to achieve positive reform.

Snapshot:

  • An examination of the future of legal practice will be an area of focus for the LCA in 2018
  • The future of access to justice in the rural, regional and remote communities will also be a priority, as the number of legal professionals working in country Australia has continued to decline.
  • The LCA will continue to press for an overhaul of the legal assistance sector funding model.

It is a pleasure to provide my first contribution to the LIJ as LCA president in 2018. This year will be an important one for your national peak body as we focus on promoting, protecting and defending the interests of the legal profession.

This year the LCA will be looking at ways to secure the future of the profession. We want to help meet present challenges, but also assist the profession grapple with innovation, technological advancement and changing client demands.

Areas of focus will be Australia’s legal education priorities, how to secure the future of the independent Bar, and the business and regulation models we need to promote the aspirations of a truly international legal profession.

It is also vital that our rural, regional, and remote (RRR) communities are not overlooked. The future of access to justice in the regions remains a significant issue for the profession as the number of lawyers working in country Australia continues to decline. Most state-based funding programs designed to attract legal professionals to RRR parts of Australia have ceased, despite positive evaluations.

Drawing on findings from our landmark Justice Project, the LCA will work with universities, courts, constituent bodies and regional law associations to identify practical initiatives for improving access to justice in RRR areas and advance effective proposals to improve retention rates for regional law practices.

We will also continue to press for an overhaul of the legal assistance sector funding model. More broadly, the LCA will continue to build its profile within federal parliamentary circles as a trusted and balanced adviser on legislative reform initiatives. This work should continue to expand the LCA’s influence at a federal level. It is my sincere hope that this influence will help us achieve good legal reform outcomes throughout the year.

The LCA will be looking to build on recent initiatives by our constituent bodies – as well as leading thinkers, academics, jurists, and experts – to develop proposals to address challenges affecting lawyers, barristers, and small practices in RRR areas.

Of course while it is important to be proactive, it is also necessary for the LCA to engage and respond to emerging national priorities. Over the course of 2018, the LCA will likely face the prospect of new regulation under Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime. This regulation, as currently proposed, would add cost and complexity to an already highly regulated profession. While the LCA recognises the federal government’s imperative toward stamping out money laundering and terrorism financing, and the risks posed to professional services that might unwittingly assist in these crimes, we will be working hard to ameliorate potential adverse consequences for law practices and resist laws which might undermine fundamental tenets of the rule of law, including client legal privilege and confidentiality.

There is already a formidable array of legislation before parliament, introduced before Christmas, with significant rule of law implications and impact on fundamental rights. These include national security laws, foreign interference laws, substantial new commonwealth criminal offence provisions, proceeds of crime, changes affecting the family law jurisdiction, immigration law, bankruptcy and tax. We expect the agenda to build considerably as parliament resumes in February.

 

Morry Bailes is president of the Law Council of Australia.

 


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