UK lawyers will be able to practise in Australia without requalifying, the government has said, following news of a post-Brexit trade agreement with Australia. However, the Law Society has warned there are still ‘practical barriers’ around the recognition of qualifications.
The Department for International Trade said the UK-Australia free trade agreement will facilitate the recognition of UK professional qualifications across ‘many sectors’, allowing lawyers to practise in Australia without having to requalify as an Australian lawyer.
However, the Law Society said there are still a number of barriers that will hinder cross-border practice, increasing costs for clients and limiting international opportunities for local lawyers. Many of these barriers are ‘behind the border’ meaning they are not addressed in international trade agreements, it said.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘We hope that the deal’s ambitious commitments on market access for services professionals will provide a strong step towards addressing these issues and look forward to seeing this reflected in the final deal.
‘We look forward to deepening our discussions on market access and a simpler requalification system with our key counterparts, including the Law Council of Australia, and would welcome a clear framework for regulatory dialogue under the FTA with Australia to further this cooperation.’
On the issue of data provisions and the ban on data localisation, the Society urged the UK government to consider the specific characteristics for legal services. ‘It is important that personal data processed by law firms are well-protected and that the fundamental rights of client confidentiality and legal professional privilege are safeguarded in such trade agreements.’
For solicitors of England and Wales, a major barrier to trade in legal services between Australia and the UK is qualification recognition. While Australian lawyers can currently undertake a test in order to dual-qualify in England and Wales, English and Welsh solicitors must satisfy rigid requirements. This often acts as a deterrent to foreign lawyers entering the market in Australia.