A new framework for practising law in NSW
The Legal Profession Uniform Law commenced in NSW and Victoria on 1 July 2015.
The Uniform Law, and the Rules and Regulations made under it, can be found here.
Factsheets on practising under the Uniform Law are available under Practising law in NSW.
How will the Uniform Law affect you and your practice?
The Uniform Law creates a common legal services market across NSW and Victoria, encompassing almost three quarters of Australia’s lawyers. The scheme aims to harmonise regulatory obligations while retaining local performance of regulatory functions.
The Uniform Law regulates the legal profession across the two jurisdictions, governing matters such as practising certificate types and conditions, maintaining and auditing of trust accounts, continuing professional development requirements, complaints handling processes, billing arrangements and professional discipline issues.
The Law Society of New South Wales continues to perform its same regulatory functions, including overseeing trust accounts and licensing. We also continue to work with the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner in relation to complaints about solicitor conduct.
The Law Society has scheduled a number of CPD sessions addressing various aspects of the Uniform Law.
What new regulatory bodies does the Uniform Law create?
The Uniform Law creates two bodies:
- The Legal Services Council, and
- The Commissioner for Uniform Legal Services Regulation, who also acts as CEO of the Legal Services Council
Together these bodies will set the policy framework for the new scheme and refine the way it operates by:
- Making rules about how the scheme operates
- Issuing guidelines and directions to local regulatory authorities to make sure the law operates consistently across jurisdictions, and
- Advising Attorneys-General on any potential amendments
Where can you find more information?
Read more about the National Legal Profession Reform Project on the NSW Department of Justice website.
The history of the Uniform Law
Since 2004, all States and Territories (except one) have enacted their legal profession legislation on the basis of a National Model Bill. However, a single national framework for legal profession regulation was not achieved because of variations between jurisdictions. It was in this context that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) decided to bring regulation of the legal profession onto its microeconomic and regulatory reform agenda.
A taskforce appointed
Following COAG’s decision in February 2009, the National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce was appointed to make recommendations and propose draft legislation. In addition to achieving uniformity, the Taskforce agreed that the reform process provided an opportunity to enhance the clarity and accessibility of consumer protection which has since become one of the recurring themes of this process.
The Taskforce started its consultation process with the release of seven Discussion Papers in late 2009. The result was a proposed new framework for national regulation embodied in draft National Law and National Rules. These were released for a three month public consultation exercise starting in May 2010.
In November 2010, the Taskforce released an interim report which addressed, at a high level, some of the key issues raised during the consultation, and made recommendations on funding. Just before Christmas 2010, amended draft legislation was released which reflected the Taskforce’s revised views.
Initial agreement turns to reservation
At its meeting on 13 February 2011, COAG “agreed in principle to settle reforms to legal profession regulation by May 2011 (with the exception of Western Australia and South Australia)”. By the end of May 2011, COAG had received a revised legal profession reform package but it was not made publicly available.
Following cancellation of its 15 July meeting, COAG was expected to finalise the reforms at its meeting on 19 August. This did not eventuate and it was reported that Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory also had reservations about the scheme.
On 9 September 2011, the Commonwealth Attorney-General released the revised draft National Law following discussions between the Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
On 19 October 2011, the Commonwealth Attorney-General announced that the new National Legal Services Board and National Legal Services Commissioner will be established in New South Wales. The Attorney-General also announced that Victoria will introduce the legislation to implement the reforms that will be replicated across participating jurisdictions.
On 3 October 2012, the Attorney-General of Queensland announced that Queensland will not participate in the national scheme.
NSW and Victoria continue with reform
On 5 December 2013 the New South Wales and Victorian Governments executed an Intergovernmental Agreement formalising their joint participation in the new regulatory scheme.
On 10 December 2013 the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Bill was introduced in the Victorian Parliament. The Bill passed both Houses without amendment on 13 March 2014 and received assent on 25 March 2014.
The NSW Parliament introduced legislation applying the Legal Profession Uniform Law on 27 March 2014. The Bill passed both Houses without amendment on 13 May 2014 and received assent on 20 May 2014.
01/07/15 NSW Attorney General Media Release: A new era for legal services in NSW & Victoria29/05/15 Office of the Legal Services Commission Media Statement29/05/15 Law Society Media Release: Political support for common legal services market welcomed 27/05/15 NSW Attorney General Media Release: NSW on track for common legal services market17/10/14 NSW and Victorian Attorneys General Joint Media Release: Uniform Legal Services Council appointed05/09/14 NSW and Victorian Attorneys General Joint Media Release: Uniform Legal Services Commissioner appointed14/05/14 NSW Attorney General Media Release: New law for lawyers28/03/14 NSW Attorney General Media Release: Legal profession reform bill introduced06/12/13 NSW and Victoria Attorneys General Joint Media Statement: NSW and Victoria sign up to uniform legal profession regulation19/10/11 Law Society Media Release: NSW welcomes national legal profession reform announcement19/10/11 NSW Attorney General Media Release: NSW to be home for National Legal Board
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