January 01, 2009 08:38am
THE Law Society of Tasmania has defended new state laws to deal with rogue lawyers.
The Legal Profession Act 2007 officially came into effect yesterday.
Similar laws in other states have led to concerns that the complaints process confuses the public and is unfair.
Unhappy clients of lawyers in Victoria and Queensland have claimed another level of complaint handling caused "confusion, stress, delay" and left people feeling "powerless".
But Law Society president Luke Rheinberger makes no apologies.
"It is better to have a system in place than not have one . . . I think that people will be able to identify where they need to go," he said.
The old system of lawyers investigating lawyers was not appropriate, he said.
Attorney-General Lara Giddings said the Act also brought Tasmania into line with other states, allowing lawyers to operate interstate.
Tasmania's legal profession will now be regulated by the Legal Profession Board and the Law Society. The board will have six members - three recommended by the State Government, two by the Law Society and one by the Independent Bar, an association of about 30 barristers.
Mr Rheinberger said the new system marked a milestone with the establishment of a separate board to deal with complaints about lawyers.
The board will investigate complaints, discipline practitioners for unsatisfactory professional conduct, or refer serious disciplinary matters to the Disciplinary Tribunal or Supreme Court.
It will also organise mediation of complaints where the parties agree.
The Law Society will also perform an important role as co-regulator and may also grant, renew or cancel practising certificates, register foreign lawyers, impose necessary practising certificate conditions, and supervise trust accounts in accordance with account rules and regulations.
The Supreme Court retains its role in disciplining officers of the court, admitting lawyers, dealing with suitability matters, and appointing receivers to wind up law practices.