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NOV. 2000

(See citation at end)









C/O 58 Thomas Street,

East Brighton, Victoria, 3187



MARCH 2001







Law Watch Australia Inc. does not favour self-regulation or any form of co-regulation by the legal profession. It is a fact well acknowledged by the public that the legal profession is intrinsically incapable in principle and in practice of fairly and justly administering, hearing, and adjudicating against its members in respect of complaints from consumers of legal services. The legal profession has shown in fact and in truth over many decades that its intrinsic conflict of interest makes it incapable of impartiality, morality, and professionalism. The regulatory and complaints against lawyers system should and must be, therefore, truly independent of the legal profession no matter what the Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar Association say. They are very much out of touch with the community if they believe that there is no community perception of their conflict of interest.

After consulting 500 persons at random, Law Watch Australia Inc. has not been able to find one person of the public who was prepared to say that there were and are any positive benefits from the former self- regulatory system and the current co-regulatory system. The 500 persons interviewed made responses to the effect that only positive detriments flowed and flow from the self-regulatory and co-regulatory systems. They said that these positive detriments were and are that :-

"the legal profession

1. could and would, as it has done before, prevent making proper or any payments to victims of the legal profession from the fidelity trust fund, so that the legal profession could and would use the money for its own functions and adornments and in other ways deplete the funds that should be available for proper compensation to victim consumers of lawyer services and for legal aid;

2. could and would, as it has done before, shield itself against legitimate complaints by frustrating and unfairly and unjustly dismissing them;

3. being proud, arrogant, powerful, skilful manipulators, and too easily offended by any suggestion that its members fall short of ethical considerations and practices, skills, knowledge and ability to act competently and morally, would, as it has done before, manipulate the facts to its own ends by clever oration and double speak, to the detriment of consumers of legal services;

  1. which feels threatened even by the most constructive of criticisms from lay people, could and would, as it has done before, mislead consumers of the true intention and meaning of the law;
  2. which over the decades of legal profession regulatory system has shown to the public that it lacks integrity and is fearful of losing its privileges and status in the community could and would, as it has done before, stoop to great lengths to persuade its colleagues to "tow the line" and 'white wash' any investigation of consumer complaints;
  3. will turn over half a legal library to clog most disconcertingly a consumer's case against a member of the legal profession, and so confuse the consumer to an unfair compliance.
  4. disregarded for decades and disregards still, its fiduciary responsibility to clients by virtue of its siphoning of client's money from its trust accounts, in clients' ignorance;
  5. fails to self-examine its latent conflict of interest in respect of its financing out of interest on clients' money its own association activities, government organizations, and legal institutions;
  6. fails to understand that its unethical means of expropriating the interest on clients' money do not justify its ends of using the money for good purposes;

10. maintained for decades and maintains still, a silence in respect to its immorality of funding "good causes" and in respect of its continual breaches of fiduciary duty."

Whilst this information from Law Watch Australia Inc. is not empirical evidence of positive detriments against self-regulatory and co- regulatory systems, this is the best feedback that its members could get from the general public interviewed at random.

Law Watch Australia Inc. finds favour with some proposals from the models for regulation and dispute resolution presented to Crown Counsel by the Federation of Community Legal Centres, by the Legal Ombudsman, and by Dr. Barry Perry.

But, before embarking on a close analysis of those models, notwithstanding the plethora of crucial components already derived from those models, Law Watch Australia Inc. being mindful that great caution must be exercised because of the potential detrimental implications that a hasty introduction of another flawed scheme could have for both the legal profession and consumers of legal services, wishes to set out the following key components which it regards must lay the foundations for a new regulatory-complaints scheme. These key components are as follows :-

  2. Now that it has officially become recognized that the current complaints system of co-regulation consisting of the Legal Practice Board, Recognized Professional Lawyer Associations, Legal Ombudsman, and Legal Profession Tribunal is not only complex, confusing in its aims and objectives, cumbersome, expensive, duplicatory, inadequate in its investigation, processes and procedures, unsatisfactory in its monitoring of activities of the lawyer associations, deficient in its review functions, and severely lacking in independence and productivity to consumers of legal services, but is a down-right bureaucratic sham created, it seems to Law Watch Australia Inc, to fail in order to facilitate a return to a greater than ever lawyer self-regulatory and complaints system, a complete overhaul of the system is imperative together with an overhaul of the abusive judicial system.

    Having appeased the public anger against "thieving and negligent lawyers" by giving the people a Legal Ombudsman, the Government gave the public a charade in the form of an Ombudsman with little authority, and little skilled man-power to correct the wrongs done to consumers, and instead gave the lawyer associations much strangle-hold over the system to strangle it, thereby giving productive time to re-organize and show cause why the return to self-regulation is preferred. Needless to say that many thousands of consumers are despondent and even contemptuous of the Government for this betrayal of them. Many hundreds of consumers have been forced to turn away from the complaints system altogether and suffer their lot in silence. Those who can still afford to enter the shamefully expensive court system to run professional negligence actions against their lawyers, having to mortgage their homes to gain access, have done so, but they too, do so in ambivalent hope and no guarantee of a fair and just result, somewhat like the survivors of the Holocaust, begging for recognition and to hear: "Sorry", and knowing that any token compensation they receive from the system of lawyers, will be dwindled away by lawyer fees. The irony of this human tragedy is that none-the-less they go forth in hope for their piric victory. A Government of, for, and by the people has a responsibility to redress these wrongs now.

    The community does not want a Legal Ombudsman limited to a role of mere review and direction to prosecute. It wants a truly independent Legal Ombudsman, appointed for 5 years, essentially a non - lawyer academic well versed in legal ethics and general philosophy; with impeccable, independent reasoning ability; sound judgment; investigative and analytical skills; with high appreciation of research; with strong interpersonal and communication skills; with high ability to liase with external sources to gain information relating to global 'best practice' trends; with natural, effective leadership and management skills and strong team orientation; with a proactive nature; with determination and genuine commitment to make a significant contribution to consumer protection and to legal profession self-analysis and education; equipped with full and clear aims, objectives, and wide powers enshrined in Legislation, together with an adequate team of devoted and highly, multi - skilled staff, fully independent of professional lawyer associations to genuinely and properly hear, investigate and resolve consumer complaints against lawyers.

  4. An independent complaints system is crucial to the health of the public. Law Watch members accept that it is by the community maintaining "the health and strength of the legal profession" that the community will benefit. This is not to say, however, as the Law Institute of Victoria says, that the health and strength of the legal profession is to be maintained by the legal professional association/s remaining directly involved in the complaints system. Law Watch finds the suggestion that the health and strength of the legal profession will be affected if the professional associations are removed from direct involvement in the regulatory and complaints system, ludicrous. If the L.I.V. suggestion means that the professions' "health and strength" will suffer by virtue of reduced funds from the wrots that the legal profession on-goingly commits, then perhaps that is so, but then, this is from the public view-point, a good thing. Rather, than that scenario prevailing, Law Watch says that the health and strength of the legal profession will be greatly enhanced and maintained by it not being so involved, and by the community instead being in control of the system. Law Watch says that the community alone should hold the key and open the door to the system of hearing complaints against the "proud and ancient profession" which has, whilst in self-regulation for decades, failed demonstrably to "develop, maintain, and enhance professional standards and behaviour of its colleagues". The community says that the legal profession should not be trusted by the public in 2001 to do that which it should have done, but did not do, throughout the previous decades of self-regulation. Law Watch agrees with that view-point.

    The nub of the community argument is that the complaints of the consumers will be best handled by the consumer public or under their auspices because the consumer public, unlike the legal profession, have a greater commitment to see that their complaints are properly handled in a public system committed to ensure that the legal profession work to set rules of high standards, written to be unequivocally understood by the legal profession and consumers alike. It is proposed that by this means the legal profession will see the wisdom of merging its own "strongest possible interest" in "ensuring that complaints are properly handled" with the strongest possible interest of consumers that proper handling become a reality. This best practice, says Law Watch, has to be thrust upon the rebellious legal profession at the current time to teach it to know what is equally good for it, ie. that only out of a commitment to an "I-Thou relationship", being the foundation for the complaints system, as the philosopher, Martin Buber educates, can there be a true and objective health and strength for consumers and for the legal profession alike. In other words, 'best practice' will occur when there is a commitment by the legal profession not to injure the consumer and when there is fair dealing and transparent compensation to the consumer to the degree of doing unto the consumer as lawyers would like it done unto themselves. The question of whether this ideal will work if it is imposed upon a legal profession rather than first learned by the legal profession given its pride, arrogance, and power as it asserts that it alone is best suited to hear complaints from consumers against its members, is an open philosophical question unable to be resolved empirically.

    Law Watch beliefs that it would be churlish to expect the public to wait to receive their just deserts until the legal profession is educated and becomes a willing participant in the ideal practice of injury prevention and of proper injury resolution by proper compensation and expressed genuine sorrow. Law Watch is of the view that the ideal practice must be imposed no matter what opposition the legal profession puts up, until the legal profession willingly accepts it by knowledge and wisdom through an education that turns the tide once and for all, against the adversarial ideology. Law Watch believes that it is crucial to the proper conduct of the legal profession and in the public interest that the legal profession's so called claim to injury of its "integrity" by the proposed removal of the professional association from direct involvement in the complaints process, be dismissed as having no substance. It is ironic that the legal profession itself suggests that its involvement in the formal, public regulatory and complaints processes is necessary to its own professional "proper conduct". The legal profession should understand, that no member of the public who urges the Government to create a truly independent, fair, transparent and accountable, 'external' public system, where the legal profession does not investigate its own kind, sit in judgment of its own kind, and enforce the law in respect of judgments for its own kind, is in any way opposed to the legal profession continuing internally to "police" the conduct of its own members" for the purpose of "developing and enhancing the ethical and practice standards of the profession". Why is it that only the legal profession cannot understand that the people demand that the legal profession should not be advocate, judge, jury, and enforcement agent in its own cause and to its own end? The people have been given no justification from the legal profession for continuing this outrageously undeserved privilege that no other profession enjoys.


Cost effectiveness is one of several desirable components, but not the primary or compelling component, and not a key principle such as fairness, that should be focussed on in the creation of a "best practice" Regulatory & Consumer Complaints Against Lawyers System. The Institute of Lawyers says that only the Institute can effectively contain costs of such a system, so the Regulator should be itself, and the complaints system should be under its sole control, or at best, under its auspices with only an independent Reviewer to over-see its operations. Law Watch answers this comic proposal as it deserves to be answered: Let's do away with costs altogether by the Institute doing away with the cause for complaint against lawyers. Law Watch says that the best way to get rid of lawyers' temptation to cause harm to consumers is not to give lawyers any opportunity to give in to their temptations, whereas the lawyer associations seem to be saying that the best way for there to be smaller costs in respect of complains against lawyers is to get rid of the temptations altogether by allowing lawyers to give in to them, and then letting the Institute cost - effectively and efficiently get rid of consumer complaints by cutting compensation to consumers. Law Watch says that the fundamental goal is to resolve consumer complaints in a fair and just way, and with proper compensation to consumers, and that costs of the process should not be a bar to this ultimate end, otherwise the Government might as well turn Libertarian and do as Oscar Wilde suggests: "The best way to get rid of temptation is to give in to it", and to this end: let the consumers complain, and let the lawyers cause harm, and let the Government keep out! Perhaps consumers will cease going to lawyers, so lawyers will not harm them, and the Government will not have the dilemma of how best to devise a costly system to service their opposing needs!

But as the current Victorian Labour Government is far from Libertarian, much closer to Liberal, its task, undoubtedly, to clean the regulatory slate of the former Liberal Government's scheme, introduced by Attorney General, Mrs. Jan Wade, and apparently has no wish to muddy the system further by a "quick fix" method that is bound to fail and waste more money on camouflaging the ills rather than curing them outright, and forever-more preventing a like return, it cannot, Law Watch suggests, compromise on the issue of independent assessment and fair resolution of consumer complaints at whatever reasonable costs are required. The system should be funded primarily by the lawyer associations and supplemented out of a Public Purpose Fund. The lawyer associations can redeem losses from their offending colleagues. Funding the system, but not out of interest on clients' money in lawyer trust accounts, will give the Institute and the Bar Council reason enough to do all in their power to persuade and cajole their colleagues to adhere to the professional conduct expected of them by Government decree and public expectation.

An independent, best practice, complaints handling scheme, the goal of which is undoubtedly to hear, investigate, and resolve complaints from consumers of legal services against their legal practitioners, fairly and expeditiously, and with the interest of maintaining and developing a healthy and strong "I – Thou" relationship between consumers and the legal profession, must be simple of access, and simple to administer; must have clear codified rules of professional ethics, and high standard of practice required of lawyers; and must have a process that is certain and reasonable; must be manned by highly skilled persons; must be speedy but sufficiently thorough in investigation and hearing; and uncompromisingly fair, just, and accountable, providing always full, reasonable explanation in word and in writing of its reasoned decisions; must, by means of its skillfulness, be cost-effective; must be cost free to the consumer -victim- complainant; must be adequately funded primarily by lawyers (as outlined in the former submission by Law Watch); and in structure and process be fully transparent and accountable to the public. In order to achieve these goals, no parallel or overlapping complaints systems or alternative Law Institute mediation or arbitration processes can exist. Law Watch prefers that the Courts not become vehicles for hearing complaints against lawyers because the association between Judges and their lawyer colleagues is too close and has the potential for conflict of interest. Law Watch strongly opposes any limitation placed on amount of compensation award, and the integration of the Legal Practice Tribunal with the Supreme Court, as in the QLD. model. Further, Law Watch does not support assimilation of the Legal Profession Tribunal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, a proposal made by the Law Institute of Victoria.



Law Watch has outlined its proposed scheme in respect to its suggestion for one repository in its earlier submission. Law Watch agrees with Dr. Perry that "best practice" demands that there being only one repository for all consumer complaints against lawyers. Law watch strongly suggests that the one repository for complaints against the legal profession should also include complaints from the public (which can include complaints from lawyers) against members of the judiciary. This is preferred to the setting-up of a Judicial Commission not only on the grounds of cost effectiveness, but also for reasons of practicality, ease for information gathering, research purposes, and transfer to the Law Reform Council to investigate and propose changes in legislation, where it finds that systemic abuses are the root of the problem that facilitate singular lawyer abuses. A one repository could best handle complaints against judges as it would have the skills to determine whether the complaint against judges should be handled by the L.O. him/herself or go to the Legal Profession Tribunal for punishment and/or recommendation to Parliament for sanction and dismissal, and/or to the Law Reform Council for investigation and recommendation regarding systemic faults resulting in injustice. Law Watch says that a holistic approach is necessary because complaints against individual lawyers often involve doing something about faults in the judicial process and faults within Court Rules written by judges, and within the Legislation itself. For this reason Law Watch strongly urges Crown Counsel to raise for discussion this crucial and integral aspect of the complaints matter, with the Attorney General.

Law Watch believes that this crucial component would not be served by either the N.S.W. or QLD. models, both of which reinforce the domination by the legal profession in a system of complaints about itself.


Law Watch believes that high standards of professional conduct should be codified in legislation, as should also be the enforcement procedures so that the public can scrutinize and watch the Watchdog doing its job. Law Watch says that the highest of standards should also be set for Judges and for the Court and Tribunal network including the Sheriff's Office. It is for Parliament to set all the aims and objectives of the regulatory scheme and enshrine them in legislation. Like Dr. Perry, Law Watch favours an independent Legal Practice Board, (ie. independent of lawyers) to deal with professional standards matters. Like Dr. Perry, Law Watch favours that the common point of entry for all matters would be via the Legal Ombudsman's Office. Law Watch agrees with Dr. Perry in the suggestion that the Law Institute and Bar Council could be involved in setting and maintaining the professional standards. Law Watch believes that the public should also be involved in this. The legal profession should not itself set the standards as the Law Institute and the Bar Council have failed in these areas in the past decades of self-regulation and cannot be trusted to co-regulate in these areas again. They can and should regulate its members independently of the L.P.B. and they could and should make suggestions and submissions, like any member of the public, to the Regulator regarding professional standards.



Like Dr. Perry, Law Watch favours that the starting point for all matters of complaint be via the Legal Ombudsman. Unlike Dr. Perry, Law Watch would like to see the Legal Ombudsman have very wide powers and to be the vehicle for complaints against the judiciary as well, and in addition be the instigator for law reform where it finds systemic abuse over and above abuse committed by a singular lawyer. In this regard, Law Watch's proposals for complaint resolution go further than do any of the proposals from the other organizations and persons responding to the issues paper. Law Watch does this, despite that its proposals go beyond the terms of reference to Crown Counsel, because systemic abuse impacts on the matter at hand and Law Watch urges Crown Counsel to draw this issue to the attention of the Attorney General.

Satisfactory and final resolution of consumer complaints against lawyers is necessary. There should not be any necessity to have an appeals section because the complaints system should get it right the first time. If an appeal division became necessary, the cost

of its administration should be borne by the lawyers' associations, but in accordance with the fiduciary duty of lawyers to their clients, which demands that money in lawyer trust accounts not be siphoned to extraneous activities, such as an appeals division, without clients' permission that their interest be so used.

Law Watch supports the application of industry-based type bench-marks to the public authority independent of the legal profession, complaints handling system.


1. Legal Profession Models( regurgitated, discredited self-regulatory models)

    1. At best, the legal profession's concession to accept an injection of independent element into the predominantly self-regulation process which it wants, is ludicrous in the light of the strong opposition from the general public which wants an entirely independent regulatory and complaints system instead of a return to the old one so demonstrably proven disreputable.
    2. The only possible strength of this model is in respect to costs, but as already discussed above, this element has seen ulterior purpose in practice, is not on par with other essential elements, and is not a key determinant or principle which alone is of such merit as to warrant consideration in the new scheme to be devised.
    3. Apart from cost saving, there is no benefit in principle in assimilating the current Legal Profession Tribunal with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The disadvantages of this proposal lie in the fact that lawyers would continue to monopolize the process and procedures in respect of complaints by consumers against lawyers.
    4. Notwithstanding the silence from the legal profession in respect of funding the "good causes" and presumably the regulatory & complaints system itself from the interest derived from clients' money in lawyer trust accounts, the immorality of so funding the structure and continuing the interdependence of the legal profession with Government is to forever nurture the very cause for consumer disdain over the latent conflict of interest and breach of fiduciary duty by lawyers. Law Watch concludes that there are only positive detriments arising from the L.I.V. model.

2. The N.S.W. Model (a co-regulatory model)

a) Its common entry point for all complaints is a strength, but its handing over of conduct matters to the professional associations, severely weakens this model. The co-regulation model is fraught with conflict of interest which is not erased by the injection of the independent process.

b) No strengths for a future Victorian scheme arise from this model. It does not commend itself for the reason that it is not simple and direct enough, has potential of overlapping the hearing and investigation of complaints, and is closely involved with the legal profession's parallel role in the matter.


  1. The QLD. Model (a self-regulatory model)

    1. The primary weakness of this model is that it advocates a return to self- regulation for the legal profession, and puts the consumer in a disadvantageous position at the outset albeit the consumer can, presumably, invoke the assistance of the L.O. for independent investigation if the first round of dispute resolution before the professional association fails. It would seem that the L.O. is given an appeal type function under this model. It is a weakness not to have the L.O. as the primary point of access to the dispute resolution system, having a high profile, and being substantially resourced. The model invokes duplication of the process of dispute resolution and in consequence this process is unlikely to be simple and final in the first instance thereby carrying the potential of delay and unnecessary stress to the consumer, and is, therefore, not likely to be an effective, efficient, and cost- effective process, although on the surface it may appear to be cost-effective. It's obvious attempt to keep the costs low, shows that this model focused on the wrong consideration as its starting and ending point.
    2. Independent assessment by the Legal Practice Board of rules and standards set by the legal profession for itself, might at first glance seem commendable, but given the proven disreputable nature of the Victorian legal profession, it would be churlish to expect the public to entrust the legal profession with such power at this point in time.
    3. The suggested formation of the L.P.B. is a weakness under this model. Court control is not desirable. The L.P.B. should be entirely independent, or in the very least chaired by a prominent academic versed in legal ethics instead of a Supreme Court Judge, as such a person is more likely to bring to bear a wider community perspective and trust than a cloistered judge, likely to be out of touch with the ethical expectations of the public. Judges, too, need to be subjected to control and discipline, and complaints against Judges should be treated as per any other member of the legal profession.
    4. A further weakness lies in the low compensation award suggested. As negligence actions should be resolved in the same way as any other dispute or complaint against a lawyer, there should be no limit on the ability to award compensation to a victimized consumer.

e) The strength of this model lies in the introduction of an independent investigatory power for the Legal Ombudsman. The Watch-Dog mentality implies that the legal profession cannot be trusted to conduct itself properly without being under surveillance, but by elevating it to the starting position it invokes a sense of freedom first to act professionally from internal discipline, and when that fails to externalize the discipline, and thereby infer a criticism of the internal process. This less disparaging process, though normally to be preferred, is in all the circumstances of the great disrepute of the Victorian legal profession, not recommended. The profession must first earn the trust of consumers afresh and over a considerable time by suffering learn to be wise : to form the 'I / Thou' relationship with the consumers out of its own desire to do what's good.

  1. Federation of Community Legal Centres Regulation / Dispute Resolution Model

    1. Law Watch Australia Inc. supports the criticisms presented by the F.C.L.C. It shares the view that public confidence in the legal profession has been so significantly lost that it is not realistic to contemplate that the legal profession is capable and deserving of privileges to self-imposing discipline and self-regulation. The strength of this model lies in advocating that nationally accepted benchmarks for dispute resolution and independent regulation should be applied to the new model.
    2. The further strength of this model lies in its recommendation that there be established an independent Regulator who is not a lawyer and provided with an adequate staff, in replacement of the Legal Practice Board. Whilst the recommendation of Law Watch is for a Regulator (albeit called L.P.B.) and his/her staff to be entirely independent of the legal profession, Law Watch respects the view expressed that an equal balance of lawyer and lay staff provides a reasonable consideration. Law Watch would want to ensure by several checks and balances put in place that there would not be a domination and monopolization of the process by lawyers.
    3. b) This model has the additional strength of being a "one-stop-shop" for all consumer complaints. The Law Watch model equally recommends that.

      c) The weakness of this model, however, is in allowing lawyers to be so closely involved in standard setting and rule making for the legal profession. Law Watch says that lawyer involvement should be no greater than that of the public. The other weakness of this model is in allowing lawyers to hold the position of Legal Ombudsman who would be responsible to deal with consumer complaints. Law Watch suggests that because of the almost total public erosion of trust in the legal profession, consumers are not likely to favour lawyers setting their own standards and making rules for themselves instead of Parliament doing this for them, nor favour a lawyer in the position of Legal Ombudsman, for quite some time to come.

    4. Law Watch is not opposed to a Public Purpose Fund financing the regulatory scheme in part, but it favours that the complaints scheme be primarily funded by the professional associations who can redeem costs from their offending/negligent colleagues.
    5. Law Watch also strongly favours the F.O.C.L.C.s perception that there is need for law reform to bring changes to the legal system. This area of tremendous systemic abuse, inextricably linked with much lawyer misconduct and abuse, complained of by consumers, cannot be stressed enough. It needs considerable attention and Law Watch asks again that Crown Counsel draw this area to the attention of the Attorney General.


  1. Ombudsman's Preferred Model

a) The strength of this proposed model lies in the suggestion that the regulatory system be entirely independent of the legal profession.

    1. Law Watch strongly supports most aspects of this model. Law Watch recommends the expansion of the powers of the L.O. further to include under that umbrella all negligence actions against lawyers and complaints against judges and enforcement agencies such as the Sheriff's Office.
    2. Law Watch particularly favours the Legal Ombudsman having prosecutorial power, and be required to provide feedback on complaints to the public and to the legal profession.

c) The weakness of this model lies in the suggestion that a Registrar, sitting alone, should handle consumer cases. Law Watch has recommended how a Legal Professional Tribunal should be constituted so as to permit entire independence from the legal profession and ensure that justice is done once and for all at no cost to the consumer victim.

  1. Victorian Ombudsman Regulatory Model

    1. Whilst this model is insufficient in detail, its undoubted strength is in recommending an independent Legal Ombudsman be the one repository for receiving consumer complaints and dealing with all consumer complaints against lawyers to a resolution of them, as well as playing a role in the examination of systemic problems. An independent Board or Tribunal would deal with all professional standard matters. Law Watch supports these aspects of the model and would further increase the role of the Ombudsman to deal with complaints against Judges, Sheriffs and the like. This would enable the Ombudsman to better appreciate the systemic abuses and problems in order that appropriate recommendations could facilitate systemic change.
    2. The weakness of this model lies in the proposal that the Legal Ombudsman not have power to prosecute.
    3. The further weakness of this model lies in the implication that the legal profession would have foremost say in the setting of professional standards, and in support of those standards, and in the education of its members. Law Watch believes that it is the duty and responsibility of Parliament to set very high standards and rules of professional conduct for lawyers and judges to adhere to, and that the education of lawyers and judges be conducted by renown academics skilled in general philosophy and legal ethics. Law Watch considers that every lawyer should have to pass, in the first instance, a three year major study in legal ethics and general philosophy at Law School, and thereafter lawyers and judges should be compelled to undergo education courses in general ethics and philosophy every 3 yearly, so that they will not be out of touch with the highest, widest, and best community standards.
  1. Law Watch Australia Inc. Model Revised ("Consumers of Legal Services Model")

a) A Legal Ombudsman is required of renowned organizational skills, highly educated in general philosophy, legal ethics, logic, and possess high oratory skills. He or she should also be of impeccable moral character. He or she should not be a lawyer, and should be independent of the legal profession and the Government.

b) The Legal Ombudsman should have very wide powers to receive and deal to completion in the most professionally impeccable way with complaints of whatsoever nature against the legal profession, including Judges, Tribunal Referees, Sheriffs, and complaints involving court official and others within the entire legal system.

c) The Legal Ombudsman should be equipped and staffed with persons independent of the legal profession, highly skilled and educated in general philosophy and legal ethics, multi–skilled in other major fields of knowledge and trades, be widely representative of the community, and be in adequate numbers to achieve a fair and just resolution of complaints from consumers. To this end the L.O. could employ experts from the general community to assist him/her where necessary. Impeccable credentials of the investigating and prosecuting team should guard against any failures in the process of fair and just resolution of complaints within an Office having the dual roles of dispute resolution by mediation and by prosecution in appropriate cases. Some cases could be sent to the Legal Profession Tribunal for prosecution, where appropriate. The non-lawyer staff of both entities should be elected by consumers of legal services from a list of names proposed by Government.

    1. Amongst doing all that the proposed Legal Ombudsman's Preferred Model suggests, the Legal Ombudsman should play a vital role in examining and directing for research, investigation and report to Parliament, by Law Reform Council, of systemic issues that cause problems or abuses in the judicial system, or in any other way interfere with the production of fair and just resolution of complaints of a legal nature. Ideally, the L.O. should liaise with the L.R.C. in its on-going law reform to ensure that the L.R.C. reports back to the L.O. in respect of its research and recommendations in order that the L.O. can also play a role in finalizing the matters it initiates, and request Parliament to address the recommendations modified or as presented by L.R.C. The L.O. would also be required to publish for community knowledge and involvement, all that the L.O. has initiated, the recommendations from the L.R.C., and its report to Parliament. The public and the legal profession would also have direct access to the L.R.C. in suggesting change or improvements to the legal system. In this way, the community could be involved in all the important areas of the legal system that so vitally affect the community.
    2. The L.O.'s Office should play a vital role in the prevention of lawyer abuses and in the exposure of them, to the ultimate end of protection of consumers of legal services. A history of offending lawyers and penalties imposed upon them, records of complaints for overcharging, negligence, breach of professional standards and other unacceptable conduct, and a summary of systemic issues sent for investigation to the L.R.C. should be available for view and copy to consumers on request to the L.O's. Office.
    3. The L.O. should be involved in every part of the regulatory and complaints system, inclusive of the role proposed for the Legal Practice Board, and should consult with the staff of the L.P.B. which would play a part in the initial setting of standards and ultimate recommendations via the Legal Ombudsman to Parliament to set the legal professional standards. The L.O. would also consult with the legal profession and with the public regarding the setting of acceptable standards and rules of professional conduct. Law Watch proposes the widest possible community involvement in every important aspect of the legal system and its regulatory and complaints components.
    4. The creation of a specialized Legal Profession Tribunal would prosecute lawyers and judges in respect of complaints of gross negligence, process abuses and the like, that the Legal Ombudsman would refer to it. Further, the L.P.T. would also have a role of reviewing any aspect of an earlier decision made by the L.O's. Office where the L.O. so directs. These towering powers to the Legal Ombudsman are justified on the grounds of prompt final resolution of complaints. The great checks and balances that would operate within the seemingly interest conflicting dual roles by the L.O. would ensure that fairness and justice would prevail. Everything in the Office of the Legal Ombudsman would be open and transparent to the public, and the Office of the L.O. would educate the public to scrutinize its processes and records. The Legal Ombudsman would be bound to promptly correct any failings by the L.O's. Office brought to his/her attention and report any criticism of the L.O's. Office to the public and to Parliament.

Law Watch Australia Inc. is pleased to present its model to Professor Peter Sallmann, Crown Counsel, and Mr. Richard Wright, Associate Director of the Civil Justice Review Project, for their consideration, report, and recommendations to the Victorian Attorney General, The Hon. Rob Hulls MP. in respect to the Review of the Legal Profession Regulatory & Complaints System.


C/O 58 Thomas Street, East Brighton,

Victoria, 3187

Tel. 03-95571432


Halina Adams

6/29 Sackville street, Kew,

Victoria, 3101


Wally Edwards

54 Dally Street, Clifton Hill

Victoria, 3068


Citation: Legal Practice Act Review – Discussion Paper by Peter A. Sallmann and Richard T. Wright published by the Department of Justice, Victoria.


Level 1, 55 St. Andrews Place, Victoria, 3001.

GPO Box 4356QQ

Melbourne, Victoria, 3001.

Phone: 9651-0560

Fax: 9651-0540

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Reptiles website/s index page.

Herpetology papers index.

Non-urgent email inquiries via the Snakebusters bookings page at:

Urgent inquiries phone:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia:
(03) 9812 3322 or 0412 777 211