10 Dec 2013

Countdown begins for common legal services market in NSW and Victoria

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The New South Wales and Victorian governments have agreed on a uniform scheme for regulation of the legal profession in their two states.

On Friday, 06 December 2013, Attorney-General for Victoria Robert Clark, and Attorney-General for NSW Greg Smith SC, signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on a Legal Profession Uniform Framework for the new scheme.

The scheme will create a common legal services market across the two jurisdictions, which together house almost three quarters of Australia’s lawyers.

Other jurisdictions will be encouraged to join the scheme in future, and will be able to do so without the need for changes to the framework or legislation.

Under the uniform arrangements:

  • Clients will benefit from a new requirement that law firms may only charge legal costs that are fair and reasonable.
  • Law firms will benefit from a single set of rules governing matters such as the requirements for maintaining and auditing trust accounts, continuing professional development requirements and billing requirements.
  • Firms seeking to engage foreign lawyers to undertake specialised legal work will benefit from a simplified process for admitting foreign lawyers to practise Australian law.
  • Smaller firms and sole practitioners will benefit from a short, standard-form of costs disclosure which may be provided as an alternative to full costs disclosure in matters where total costs are not likely to exceed $3,000. As is presently the case, no costs disclosure will be required for matters worth less than $750.
  • The scheme clarifies that in-house practitioners may act for related entities.
  • Prospective lawyers will benefit from a single set of admissions requirements.

The scheme is anticipated to commence on 1 July 2014.

The full text of the joint media statement is here: NSW and Victoria sign up to uniform legal profession regulation