Australian Government Legal Service
Australian Government Legal Service
Welcome to the Australian Government Legal Service (AGLS) website. The AGLS is the formal professional network for all Australian government lawyers. The focus of this network is to support and develop government lawyers and in-house legal areas, enhancing consistency and efficiency across the Australian Public Service.
AGLS virtual launch
A message from the Acting Secretary, AGD, Iain Anderson
Hello and thank you for joining me to officially launch the Australian Government Legal Service. I’m Iain Anderson, currently acting Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department.
In the spirit of reconciliation, let me begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia, and their connections to land, sea and the community. In Canberra, where I am today, that is the Ngunnawal people.
I’d also like to pay my respects to their elders past and present, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I am very excited to help launch the AGLS, which will bring government lawyers together and support you through information sharing, collaboration, guidance and training. While I join you today as acting Secretary, the next Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department will be the head of the AGLS, and I am sure that I speak on their behalf when I welcome all of you to this exciting new era.
As you will appreciate, the role of government lawyers is a varied and challenging one.
There are those of you who specialise in a range of legal areas, and those of you who work as generalists in smaller agencies.
Some of you will be managing litigation for the Commonwealth, others will be developing the laws that govern the nation, while some will provide the advice that ensures that the policies and programs of the government of the day can be delivered in accordance with the law.
Many of you will work closely with ministers, with policy makers, and with other government officials.
That’s why you need a clear and nuanced understanding of the whole‑of‑government framework in which you operate.
As government lawyers, you also need to navigate a complex and ever changing operating environment. That’s why you need to master and provide advice on evolving policies and procedures, while also managing the expectations and needs of the Australian public.
But what distinguishes a government lawyer from other lawyers, or even other public servants, is not necessarily the work itself. It is the full set of obligations and responsibilities that come from advising and representing the government.
Some of these challenges are shared with the legal profession, some with other public officials, and others are indeed unique to government lawyers. The convergence of all three of these makes being a government lawyer both challenging and fulfilling.
In 2016, the then Secretary of AGD, Chris Moraitis, conducted a Review of Commonwealth Legal Services, to examine how legal services could be delivered more efficiently and more effectively. Importantly, the focus was on making sure that high quality and coordinated advice is provided to government into the future.
The review recommended a new framework that would provide for more effective delivery of Commonwealth legal services with more appropriate management of legal risk.
And as part of this new framework, the review also recommended creating a formal professional network for government lawyers. A network with the main aim of supporting the delivery of high quality and connected legal services across the Commonwealth.
It will emphasise that, whilst you all work for your separate agencies, you are all government lawyers who act in the greater interest of the Commonwealth, and both benefit from and contribute to being part of a broad, diverse and talented cohort.
So with that in mind I’m very pleased to be part of this launch of a new, formal professional network for Australian government lawyers – the Australian Government Legal Service or AGLS.
The AGLS replaces, and builds on, the Australian Government Legal Network. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people who volunteered their time and energy to that network – it has provided a strong foundation from which we can grow professionally.
The new Legal Service takes a whole-of-government approach. It works in parallel with, and complements, existing arrangements within the Australian Government and its departments and agencies. It will be led by the AGLS Board, a governance body made up of senior legal practitioners from a diverse range of agencies and headed by the AGLS Board Chair, Sarah Godden. The Board will be supported by several Committees.
As government lawyers, you are all automatically members of the Legal Service, while remaining of course employees of your entity.
By building relationships and deepening skills, you’ll be supported in managing the legal interests of your agency, and indeed of the broader Commonwealth.
The Legal Service will also provide mobility opportunities and professional development activities, to support your career progression, such as the already underway Foundational Australian Government Lawyer Training Program.
It will also provide a range of collaborative activities across agencies and with the private sector.
While it will take time for this ethos to be realised, your engagement will help us achieve it.
In addition to the formal AGLS network, we will also continue to support the cross-Commonwealth coordination of legal services with other initiatives, such as the Whole of Australian Government Legal Services Panel.
A professional network is nothing without its members, so I encourage you all to engage with and actively participate in the AGLS’s initiatives. Having started my own career as a government lawyer over 30 years ago, I can say that I would have welcomed something like the Legal Service that I could draw upon, learn from, and be part of.
It is our vision that the AGLS will also serve as a model for other Commonwealth professions, as an overarching network consistent with the ‘professional model’ as recommended in the 2019 Independent Review of the Australian Public Service.
It is now my great pleasure to join with AGLS Board Chair Sarah Godden to officially – and virtually – launch our new formal professional network – the Australian Government Legal Service.
A message from AGLS Board Chair, Sarah Godden
Hello, my name is Sarah Godden, I'm the Chair of the inaugural AGLS Board and also General Counsel – Communications & Arts at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. I'd like to welcome you to the virtual launch of the AGLS.
I acknowledge that I am recording this message from the lands of the Ngunnawal people. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the various lands on which you all work today and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewing this recording.
The AGLS is a centralised professional network for government lawyers to support the delivery of high quality, responsive, and consistent legal service across the Commonwealth. Establishment of the AGLS was one of 10 recommendations from the Secretary's Review of Commonwealth Legal Services conducted between 2015 and 2016.
The review considered how Commonwealth legal services could be delivered more effectively and efficiently and the AGLS was identified as a means of achieving this whilst also building and promoting a professional identity for government lawyers that supports their unique role and cultivates their sense of belonging to a professional cohort.
The AGLS replaces the Australian Government Legal Network (AGLN) and will build on its work.
The AGLS, like the AGLN before it, is the product of a lot of hard work by many people over many years. I would like to acknowledge the work of the AGLN, its Board and committees, the AGLS Transition Steering Committee, and the AGLS team in the Office of Legal Services Coordination.
In launching the AGLS, I will be sharing with you:
- what it means to be part of the AGLS
- how the AGLS will benefit us as government lawyers
- our priority initiatives and
- how I envision we will come together through the AGLS to support each other as government lawyers.
I, along with the AGLS Board, firmly believe in enabling government lawyers to support each other to deliver legal services to, and identify and manage legal risk for, the Commonwealth of Australia.
Government lawyers work across a variety of Commonwealth agencies, undertaking a variety of functions, but we share the common objective of achieving results for Australians and the government.
To balance our myriad of responsibilities, we need to be efficient, effective and ethical. It's a big ask of any one person. Which is why we are providing a platform to enable us to come together, to help each other as a cohort. This is why I am passionate about the potential of the AGLS.
The AGLS has already delivered the benefit of initiatives such as tailored training at a lower cost and reinforcing the necessity of legal services to good program, policy and service delivery outcomes. There are many more projects with equal potential, some building on the foundations of the AGLN, and some greenfields ideas.
All government lawyers (including from the Australian Government Solicitor) will automatically be members of the AGLS. For AGLS membership, government lawyers include all legally qualified people employed in Commonwealth entities who perform legal services as part of a dedicated legal team.
So what's in it for you, as a government lawyer? The AGLS is all about creating opportunities for us to share information, ideas, experiences, resources and guidance with the aim of assisting us in our day to day jobs as well as in our professional development.
Starting with professional development, we plan to run the Foundational Australian Government Lawyer Training Program and Reciprocal Secondment Program regularly to provide interested government lawyers with professional development and mobility opportunities. Further details about these programs can be found on the AGLS website.
Members will also have the opportunity to connect with more than 2,000 Commonwealth government lawyers working in more than 90 entities across Australia to promote information-sharing, collaboration and efficiency in the delivery of legal services.
Above all, the AGLS will provide pathways for us to support and strengthen each other in the valuable work we do to identify and manage Commonwealth legal risk.
Although Members will be the focus of AGLS's work, many initiatives will also be opened up to Commonwealth employees who are not government lawyers. So whether you have legal qualifications working in a non-legal area, or simply have an interest in the government legal sphere, there will be opportunities to participate in the AGLS.
The AGLS Board will work in partnership with the Attorney-General's Department to progress other key initiatives arising from the Secretary's Review. Supported by a number of committees including the Professional Development Committee, the Engagement and Communication Committee and the Conference Committee, the Board will progress the objectives of the AGLS strategic plan. Please contact the AGLS team via the website if you are interested in becoming involved in the work of these committees.
We are very conscious of the need to ensure that the AGLS is inclusive of all government lawyers, especially lawyers based outside Canberra. We are developing a National Engagement Strategy, in conjunction with the AGLS Professional Development Committee, to this end.
I am also pleased to advise that, having been delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work is underway for the inaugural AGLS Conference to be held in the 2021-22 financial year.
I have shared with you what makes me so excited about the potential of the AGLS. I now ask you to reflect on what opportunities the AGLS may represent for you. It is your engagement and participation that will make the AGLS strong and effective. Please take some time to explore the updated AGLS website, identify AGLS initiatives that interest you, and subscribe to the mailing list. The AGLS is an unparalleled opportunity for all of us, as government lawyers, to support each other and strengthen the vital role of government lawyers, now and into the future. I hope you will join me in grasping this opportunity to enable the AGLS to fulfil all its potential.
If you are a Commonwealth General Counsel/head of legal, please subscribe to our new contact list. The list will be used to facilitate heads of legal engaging with each other and build a community of government lawyer leaders.
The next GLT program will be held from 20 to 22 November 2023 at the National Gallery of Australia.
The annual report highlights key achievements, initiatives, challenges and learnings and outlines plans for 2023.
Keep up to date with the work of the AGLS – including training, resources and career development. Join our government lawyer contact list.
Secretary’s Review of Commonwealth Legal Services
In December 2015, the Australian Government tasked the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department to conduct a review of Commonwealth legal services. The findings and recommendations drew upon the expertise and experience of a diverse and highly engaged group of stakeholders across many Commonwealth entities and the legal services sector. It makes a number of wide ranging recommendations for improvements to the Commonwealth legal services framework.
The strategic plan sets out the purpose and activities for the AGLS across 3 streams: governance, engagement and personal development.
Membership of the Australian Government Legal Service is intended to provide government lawyers with a sense of belonging to a broader cohort, and to allow government lawyers to connect and collaborate across government. Discover what’s in it for you as a government lawyer.
Although most workplaces have transitioned to a safe and gradual return of employees to their usual place of work, there is uncertainty about the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to continue to look after your mental and physical health.