The new Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the UK has been labelled a ‘world class trade deal’. It aims to set a new global standard allowing for a greater mutual recognition of professional qualifications, as well as a focus on eased mobility options between the two jurisdictions.
We highlight some of the most significant proposed changes.
The new agreement will allow junior lawyers wanting to gain work experience in Australia to benefit through Australia’s Youth Mobility schemes. Specifically, British nationals between the ages of 18 and 35 years old can apply for the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program, which will let you train in Australia for up to 3 years, removing the previous requirement of having to undertake ‘specified regional work’.
There may be more additional opportunities for the legal sector from the “pilot new visa scheme for UK citizens that allows early career workplace exchanges for graduates,” explained Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society of England and wales.
For instance, global firms such as Herbert Smith Freehills, and Ashurst have a significant presence in both countries, and with this trade agreement in place, moving lawyers between jurisdictions becomes a lot easier.
“We expect to be able to provide more opportunities for our talented lawyers in both directions, which can vary from matter-specific to longer term arrangements,” explained Herbert Smith Freehills Senior partner Rebecca Maslen-Stannage.
UK law firms who are hoping to provide cross-border services will now have guaranteed access to Australian government contracts for the legal services that are covered by the agreement. This includes arbitration, conciliation and mediation, for example.
The Free Trade Agreement also enshrines the right to advise on home-country laws and public and private international law where a lawyer is entitled to practise in their home jurisdiction. This “is an important achievement as it recognises the specificities of home title practice in international legal practice, without the need for mutual recognition procedures and/or requalification in the host country,” explained Boyce.
She added: “Many barriers facing legal services providers are ‘behind the border’ and not suitable for an FTA, such as permitted business structures for law firms. However, provisions of the agreement establish and drive collaboration between relevant bodies – including the Law Society of England and Wales and the Law Council of Australia – through a bespoke legal services regulatory dialogue, and will help address some of the barriers that can’t be dealt with in the FTA.”
This agreement cements an existing arrangement that recognises the professional legal qualifications obtained in the UK, therefore allowing individuals to provide legal services in Australia without having to requalify. The general rule states that a lawyer granted a practising certificate in one jurisdiction is entitled to practise law in every other Australian jurisdiction.
The new Free Trade Agreement means you can make an application that takes into account your professional qualifications and legal experience, instead of completing a a lengthy process that involves sitting up to 11 exams.
Additionally, eased mobility options will allow companies to sponsor visas that are committed in the FTA without an economic needs test, and there will be no limitations on the number of visas granted to those who want to practice in Australia.
However, it might be too early to start packing your bags. The Law Society warns there are still numerous practical barriers that need to be ironed out.
Overall, this deal has received a lot of positive feedback from the legal community as it has addressed numerous lingering concerns such as:
Whilst the final agreement is yet to come, it is safe to say this is a step in the right direction for the UK’s legal industry as a whole. We will keep you updated on this topic to help determine your next career move, so watch this space!
Loading More Content