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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 2401..


Legal fees

(Question No 1159)

Mr Stefaniak asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 8 June 2006:

(1) Has the Government undertaken a public review of legal fees as promised in the 2004 ACT election; if so, what was the outcome of this review;

(2) If the review is underway, when will it be completed;

(3) If the review has not started, when will it start or has the Government abandoned this promise.

Mr Corbell: The answer to the member's question is as follows:

(1) This review of legal fees was subsumed within the national reform of the legal market, which led recently to the passage of the Legal Profession Act 2006. As such, the government is very much involved in a review of legal costs at this time, not as a stand-alone jurisdiction, but as a signatory to an agreement between all jurisdictions to review and reform the governance and regulation of the Australian legal profession.

The Legal Profession Act 2006 was passed by the Assembly on 6 June 2006, and commenced on 1 July 2006. The passage of that Act represents the first major phase of implementation of the national legal profession model law.

The model law incorporates a series of mandatory provisions relating to the obligations of practitioners in making clients aware of costing rates and methods, and the process for pursuing recovery and review of assessed legal costs. The provisions require more effective disclosure to clients, and install clear processes for agreeing on, challenging and recovering legal costs.

The Standing Committee of Attorneys General was very strongly of the view that legal costing processes should be nationally uniform, and each jurisdiction has agreed to adopt the mandatory provisions of the national model law.

The model law was widely available for comment during 2004, and the new ACT legislation was developed in close consultation with the Law Society of the ACT and the ACT Bar Association.

(2) While the Legal Profession Act 2006 commenced on 1 July 2006, the provisions relating to costs disclosure and review will not commence until 1 January 2007, to enable members of the legal profession to prepare for the new requirements.

In the meantime, the National Legal Profession Joint Working Party, on which the ACT is represented, has reviewed the national model law - particularly in relation to costs - and discussions are underway with the profession in relation to necessary amendments to the new Act. This second wave of review, to be completed later in the year, will bring all of the jurisdictions into line with the agreed model.

During the next few months, the Joint Working Party will also be considering the NSW Legal Fees Review Panel Report, with a view to reaching agreement on further uniform changes to legal costing and recovery processes.


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