Strengthening international ties could give new opportunities for Aussie lawyers

by Azadeh Khalilizadeh from FindLaw

Government and Law Council initiatives to strengthen international ties with the US and China over the past month, may see a new wave of opportunities for Australian lawyers.

Law Council pushes to improve US practice rights for Australian lawyers

In August 2006 the Law Council of Australia (LCA) announced that delegation from the LCA addressed the US Conference of Chief Justices in Indiapolis, in pursuit of expanding practice rights for Australian lawyers in the US states and territories.

Australian representatives visiting the US included LCA president Mr Tim Bugg, former Law Council Presidents John North and Gordon Hughes, and Cathy Raper, Director of the FTA Commitments and Implementation Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

LCA says its proposed arrangements include:

  • Allowing Australian lawyers to practice for short period without local regulation;
  • Lawyers to be able to practice for longer periods with a registration arrangement that mirrors the Australian treatment of foreign lawyers; and
  • US recognition of Australian legal qualifications, which would greatly simplify admission requirements in the US.

    "We have received a warm and sympathetic reception from the Chief Justices and we have agreed to continue to work with them towards a helpful US policy position," Mr Bugg said.

    Mr Bugg also announced the LCA renewed its association with the American Bar Association (ABA).

    "Mike Greco, current ABA President, has come to the conference and has been particularly supportive of the Law Council’s efforts," Mr Bugg said.
    According to the LCA, its campaign is supported by the International Legal Services Advisory Council, the Council of Australian Law Deans, the Attorney-General’s Department and DFAT.

    Ruddock announces lawyer program to strengthen Australia-China ties

    In July 2006 Attorney-General Philip Ruddock led a 24-member Australian Legal Services Mission to China, aiming to strengthen ties between the Australian and Chinese legal professions and improve access to the Chinese market for Australian lawyers.

    Days after discussions with Chinese State Councillor Zhou Yongkang in Beijing, Ruddock announced a new legal professional development initiative, in conjunction with the Law Society of Australia and the All-China Lawyers Association. The initiative involves up to four Chinese lawyers visiting Australia for a 23-week placement to study legal professional regulation and policy development.

    According to Mr Ruddock, the legal professional development program seeks to "further strengthen the strong links" in law and legal services between the new nations.

    "There are growing community partnerships between our two countries and in particular, the continuing relationship between my department and the Ministry of Justice is reinforcing institutional links between out legal professions," Mr Ruddock said.

    Partnership strong, greater access pending

    While partnerships strengthen, lawyer won’t know if a more accessible legal services market will materialise until a formal free trade agreement is reached between the two countries.

    The sixth round of the Australia-China free trade agreement negotiations, due to happen in Beijing in September 2006, will see the issue of access to the Chinese legal services market on the agenda.

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