Important Update on Uniform Law in Western Australia
Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Bill 2021 – Commencement
The Law Society’s advised its members and the wider profession that on 23 June 2021 the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Bill was reintroduced into the Legislative Assembly, following its lapsing before the 2021 State election and that the anticipated commencement date for the Uniform Law remains 1 January 2022.
Unfortunately, both the Legal Profession Uniform Law Bill 2021 (Bill) and the Legal Profession Uniform Application (levy) Bill 2021 (Bills) have not yet passed Parliament and all indications are that at best both Bills will not be passed by Parliament until November 2021, and at worst not commence until some time on or around the Legislative Council’s last sitting day on 9 December 2021. It is highly unlikely that both Bills will commence in their entirety before the end of the year with a number of transitional provisions being drafted which to date remain unknown.
At the October meeting of the Law Society Council, it was resolved to write to the Attorney General to request an urgent meeting be arranged with the key stakeholders including the Law Society, Legal Practice Board, Western Australian Bar Association, and the Legal Contribution Trust to consider whether the anticipated date of 1 January 2022 should be moved to 1 April 2022 for the following reasons:
- The Regulations and Rules are yet to be finalised and there has to date been no consultation on either.
- From the date of proclamation, we understand that there are changes to the conduct rules, CPD rules and how firms deal with costs agreement and costs disclosure and broadly speaking there has been limited communications and/or CPD provided to educate the Western Australian legal profession on these changes in 2021. The date of 1 April also enables the implementation of professional education on the Legal Profession Uniform Law prior to the end of the CPD deadline of 31 March.
- It would be unfortunate if the legal profession were to be advised as late as December that a new Bill will take effect from 1 January 2022. Furthermore, this is too short a timeframe to introduce a new regulatory framework for the legal profession. This is further compounded by the business sector shut down during the December/January period.
- Finally, it is not clear how any transitional provisions would alleviate these concerns.
In response to the letter to the Attorney General, the Law Society was advised the following on the 25 November 2021:
The LPUL Bill has passed the Legislative Assembly and it is hoped it will pass the Legislative Council prior to Christmas. However, given the uncertainties about the timing of when Parliament may pass the Bill, the Attorney General has agreed to defer the proposed 1 January 2022 commencement date. The Attorney General will consult with stakeholders when deciding on the new commencement date. Any new commencement date will be subject to the LPUL Bill first passing Parliament.
The Attorney General will keep the Law Society and profession closely informed.
Legal Profession Uniform Law Fact Sheets
These Fact Sheets provide general information of an introductory nature on various aspects of the Uniform Law. The Fact Sheets will be added to and updated as the Uniform Law progresses in Western Australia:
1 – Overview of the Uniform Law
2 – Cost Disclosures Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law
3 – Legal Profession Uniform Law Cost Disclosure – Reasonable Steps
4 – Billing Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law
5 – Consumer Complaints Involving Costs Disputes Under the Uniform Law
6 – Prohibition on Engaging in Legal Practice by Unqualified Entities
7 – Incorporated Legal Practises Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law
8 – Law Practices – Unincorporated Legal Practice
9 – Practising in WA Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law – Individuals
10 – Solicitor Stamps Under the Legal Profession Uniform Law
11 – Party/Party Cost Assessment Procedure
The Law Society of Western Australia fully endorses the adoption of the Legal Profession Uniform Law and has campaigned for it since 2014. Find out more about the historical background by clicking on the link below.
On 5 February 2009, the Council of Australian Governments agreed that further work needed to be done to nationalise regulation of the legal profession in Australia and the National Legal Profession Reform Project was established. Background papers of the project are available at ag.gov.au.
The introduction of a uniform system of legal profession regulation has been a goal of the Law Council of Australia. Victoria and New South Wales adopted the Uniform Law on 1 July 2015. This was considered to be a significant milestone towards a truly national profession, and a positive example of the profession taking a leadership role in setting its own standards.
The Law Council has produced a fact sheet which provides an overview of the arrangements that applies to interstate practitioners when practising in New South Wales and Victoria from 1 July 2015.
The Law Society of Western Australia fully endorses the adoption of the Legal Profession Uniform Law in our State and has campaigned for it since 2014. See the Briefing Paper here for more details.
In 2020, the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Bill 2020 and the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application (Levy) Bill 2020 were introduced into the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. The Bills passed the Assembly and the Legislative Council referred them to the Standing Committee on Uniform Legislation, who reported on the Bills in October 2020.
On 7 December 2020, prior to the 2021 Western Australia State election, the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly were prorogued. As a result of propagation, all bills before both houses ‘lapse’ and are removed from the parliamentary business. As a result the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Bill 2020 and the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application (Levy) Bill 2020 lapsed.
Following the lapsing of the Bills, the Law Society was advised that the Attorney General wrote to the New South Wales and Victorian Attorneys General seeking to extend the operation of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Legal Profession Uniform Law Framework to 1 January 2022 and to confirm the State Government’s commitment to joining the Legal Profession Uniform Law scheme.
The Bills were re-introduced into the Legislative Assembly on 23 June 2021.
- Legal Profession Uniform Law Policy Position (December 2016)
- The Law Society’s review of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Report (August 2014)
- Law Council of Australia Speech – National Legal Profession Reform (November 2011, Attorney-General Michael Mischin MLC)
- Taskforce Paper on Business Structures – Law Practices (25 November 2009)
- Hon Robert McClelland MP, Federal Attorney General’s speech at Law Summer School 2010 (26 February 2010)
- Hon Robert McClelland MP, Federal Attorney General’s interview with The Australian newspaper on the draft Bill consultation (14 May 2010)
- Overview of Regulatory Framework for National Regulation of the Legal Profession (22 December 2010)
- Draft Legal Profession National Law (December 2010)
- Draft Legal Profession National Rules (December 2010)
Submissions to National Taskforce
Below are joint submissions by the various state and territory law societies and bar associations that have been submitted in response to the National Legal Profession Reform project taskforce’s discussion papers released in late 2009 and the Federal Government’s draft Bill consultation period in mid-2010:
- Business Structures – Law Practices
- Trust Money
- Fidelity Cover
- National Legal Services Ombudsman
- Regulatory Framework and Ombudsman
- Letter from LCA re Regulatory Framework
- Law Society of Western Australia Submission to the National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce (August 2010)
- Law Council of Australia Submission to the National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce (August 2010)