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General Counsel

The role of General Counsel

General Counsel or heads of legal play a vital role as senior legal services practice leaders in the Australian Government. General Counsel have oversight and responsibility for the vast majority of legal issues arising in the Commonwealth and manage, directly or indirectly, the majority of lawyers working in Commonwealth entities.

General Counsel are trusted legal advisers to entity heads across the Commonwealth and have a critical leadership role to play in Commonwealth legal services.

As the managers of individual legal practices in Commonwealth entities, the General Counsel cohort also has a key role to play in developing and contributing to high professional standards in legal practice management more broadly.

The Secretary's Review envisaged that General Counsel, working together, would drive changes that improve efficiency and work against duplication of effort and resources across in-house legal areas.

A shared understanding

The Secretary's Review recommended a better articulation of the role of General Counsel through the development of a General Counsel charter, sponsored by the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department (AGD). The Charter, to be developed by the AGLS Board, once established, will identify General Counsel's obligations as part of a broader leadership cohort within the AGLS, and how AGD, through the Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC), will support General Counsel to meet those obligations.

General Counsel and heads of legal will lead and promote their entity's engagement in the AGLS, including supporting their staff to participate in training, development and secondment opportunities.

The AGLS and its initiatives will support General Counsel by linking them as a leadership cohort through shared development frameworks and networks, and access to training opportunities and coordinated management of whole-of-government issues in partnership with OLSC and AGS.

The Whole of Australian Government Legal Services Panel (recommendation 10 of the Secretary's Review), commenced on 15 August 2019 and supports the purchase of external legal services in a coordinated and efficient way.

The Government Legal Advice Database (recommendation 5 of the Secretary's Review), once established, will support General Counsel by reducing duplication, contributing to information sharing across the Commonwealth and helping General Counsel to provide coordinated and consistent legal advice.

The AGLS Board

The membership of the AGLS Board will be drawn from General Counsel and heads of legal as well as other senior Australian government lawyers. Visit the Leadership team page for more information about the Board.



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.
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