Certification and training of the legal profession

Question 9–6              Should a system for the training and certification of legal professionals who act in native title matters be developed, in consultation with relevant organisations such as the Law Council of Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative bodies?

9.36       A training and certification scheme for practitioners working in native title may have several benefits. Deloitte Access Economics noted that accreditation was one of a number of options for improving the level of service provided:

A stronger form of regulation would be to operate a registration system for which native title practitioners require accreditation. Accreditation could be based on a simple test of competencies or qualifications in areas of law or relevant experience. Again, the registration could be voluntary, providing additional information to the market, or mandatory.[41]

9.37       Certification may help to ensure that practitioners meet certain standards or requirements. This may reduce a problem, noted by AIATSIS, of applicants accessing legal representatives

who carry none of the additional obligations that currently vest in officers of the NTRBs/NTSPs. These obligations exist in order to assist, consult with and have regard to the interests of RNTBCs, native title holders and persons who may hold native title and they also extend to requiring the NTRB to identify persons who may hold native title.[42]

9.38       David Ritter and Merrilee Garnett have also suggested that there are ‘strong arguments for the development of an accreditation system for native title lawyers. At the very least we consider that there should be a specific code of ethics for native title lawyers’.[43]

9.39       The ALRC is seeking comments on the possible costs or benefits of a legal training and certification scheme for native title practitioners, as well as the form that such a scheme might take.