In a letter to the Australian Financial Review (26th of August 2011) Robert Milliner, Chief Executive Partner, Mallesons, highlights the dilemma faced by the legal profession in Australia following a decision by four of the eight States and Territories not to support a plan for the national regulation of lawyers. He points to:

  • the rapid change the profession is undergoing in a volatile global market
  • the pressing need for simplified, single standards for entry and regulation in the profession.

He also touches on some of the potential benefits of national rules rather than differentiated State–based systems – it would:

  • potentially reduce the cost to law firms of doing business
  • improve access to inter-state markets
  • provide firms with greater flexibility and the ability to move resources efficiently between State and Territory jurisdictions.

After a ten-year push for national regulation and a more seamless market, it appears that a great opportunity has been lost to the profession by ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia refusing to endorse the National Legal Professional Reform.

At a time when the legal profession in Australia is also seeing forceful incursions into its space from UK and USA law firms, it seems the time has come for the Federal Government and those State Governments in favour (which include the two larger ones, Victoria & New South Wales, as well as Queensland and the Northern Territory) to pool their resources, take a lead and make this happen. They can then work to prove their business model benefits the profession, law firms (including non-national smaller firms in smaller States who have concerns about benefits and costs to them) as well as consumers, and over time bring the remaining States and Territories on board.