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Draft statement of expectations of Australian Government lawyers

Published date

All government lawyers are invited to provide input on the draft statement for consideration by the AGLS Board. Consultation is open until 10 September 2021.

Please email agls@governmentlawyers.gov.au with substantive input on the statement.

This statement is intended to guide and support all Australian Government lawyers in performing their roles.

Purpose

The draft ‘Statement of expectations of Australian Government lawyers' (Statement) is informed by the 2017 Secretary's Review of Commonwealth Legal Services as well as direction from the AGLS Transition Steering Committee. It has been prepared by the AGLS Board.

The purpose of the Statement is to acknowledge the unique demands placed on government lawyers and reinforce the importance of complementing technical legal proficiency with a broad understanding of the context in which they operate. The Statement will raise awareness of the core expectations of government lawyers and provide guidance on how government lawyers should approach their duties with a whole-of-government focus.

The Statement is intended to complement the General Counsel Charter (recommendation 2 of the Secretary’s Review) and the definition of government lawyer for the purposes of AGLS membership.

The General Counsel Charter reinforces the requirement for General Counsel to support professional development of government lawyers and build a professional identity. The Statement is one avenue to support General Counsel and government lawyers in the delivery of legal services and management of legal risk in their entity.

Background

The Secretary’s Review recommended the establishment of the AGLS to support coherent and consistent legal services across the Commonwealth, focused on information sharing, collaboration, guidance and professional standards and training. While all government lawyers remain employees of their entity, they will be members of the AGLS as part of their work.

Recommendation 8 of the Secretary’s Review states that, as part of the AGLS, lawyers in Commonwealth entities ‘would have a statement of roles and responsibilities which include clear obligations to identify whole-of-government issues and support the First Law Officer’.

Recommendation 7 of the Secretary’s Review highlights the need for General Counsel to ensure that in-house legal areas across Commonwealth entities have a ‘clear statement of their roles and responsibilities, objective and expertise’. The General Counsel Charter and Statement will assist individual General Counsel to articulate the roles and responsibilities of their in-house legal area.
 

Who is this statement for?

This is a statement of expectations of all Australian Government lawyers.

This statement is intended to guide and support us in performing our roles as government lawyers, and to complement the General Counsel Charter.

Obligations of government lawyers

As lawyers and public servants, our obligations arise from different sources, which may include:

  • The ethical standards and conduct rules for admission to the legal profession in each State and Territory
  • The Judiciary Act 1903 and the Legal Services Directions 2017
  • The APS Values and Code of Conduct in the Public Service Act 1999
  • The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013
  • The rules, regulations and procedures of each of our agencies.

Our expectations of ourselves

As government lawyers, we do the following:

  • We conduct ourselves with integrity, objectivity and independence
  • We discharge our role as government lawyers in a manner consistent with the law and the public interest, and we support the Attorney-General as First Law Officer to uphold the rule of law
  • We understand that when we provide our advice, or identify and manage legal risk, we do so with a whole-of-government focus
  • We will provide legal advice to assist our clients to achieve the government's objectives
  • Because we are part of one Australian Government Legal Service, we collaborate and consult
  • We are committed to our own wellbeing, learning and professional development, and that of our colleagues.

Review

The AGLS Board will review this statement at least every two years.

The statement may be amended by resolution of the AGLS Board if it is endorsed by the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department.

Effective date

The statement was approved by the Secretary on [DATE].

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