Victoria ends self regulation by lawyers

Lawyers in the Australian state of Victoria face a raft of regulations this month that will end the regulatory powers of their professional bodies and make them disclose likely fees before taking on work.

The measures, introduced by the state government, also scrap the distinction between barristers and solicitors, who will now be officially referred to as legal practitioners. It will no longer be compulsory for lawyers to belong to the Law Institute or the Bar Council, although they must join a recognised professional association under rules set down by the legislation.

Regulation of the profession has been handed over to three independent statutory authorities – the Legal Practice Board, the Legal Ombudsman and the Legal Professional Tribunal.

Duncan Walls, resident partner at Allens Arthur Robinson in London, welcomed the shake-up, although he said there had been a mixed reaction to the changes from the profession with many adopting a “paranoid” defensive attitude.

London-based Australian lawyer Michael Whalley, of Minter Ellison, said the move to reveal fees would make lawyers more focused about the task ahead of them and would be welcomed by clients.

He said national and international firms would have no trouble adapting to the new regime. “It is similar to the New South Wales requirements that have been in place for a few years,” he said.