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Smith delighted ‘weak’ Lawyers Bill derailed

Media Statement
For immediate release
Thursday, 31 March 2005

Smith delighted ‘weak’ Lawyers Bill derailed

United Future justice spokesman Murray Smith today said he was delighted that the “overcooked and poorly drafted” Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill was now unlikely to pass before the election.

Mr Smith, who has been a vocal critic of the Bill, which he has described as hugely over-prescriptive and in need of tightening and huge reform, said it was important that the next Parliament completely revisited the legal profession’s guiding legislation.

“It’s too important to get wrong,” he said.

United Future’s main concern with the legislation is the “legalised plundering” of an estimated $2 million from the Lawyers Fidelity Fund for the Law Society’s general purposes, against the wishes of a large proportion of practicing lawyers, he said.

“The transfer of the money from a fund set up to protect the public to the coffers of what will become a voluntary professional organization is an outrage,” he said.

Mr Smith said he had surveyed every law firm in the country and found that only 10% of respondents agreed with the Bill’s approach, which is backed by both the Government and the Law Society. Some 81% or respondents supported a Untied Future amendment that would require the issue to be decided by a referendum of all lawyers.

A second survey found that 75% of lawyers opposed the Bill in its current format.

Mr Smith said that after the election he hoped to make it a priority to try to get a new, far less prescriptive lawyers bill through Parliament.

He said he would approach the Law Society to discuss the shape of the Bill.

Ends.

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