Incorrect use of the term ‘Principal’ by employees - Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Incorrect use of the term ‘Principal’ by employees

September 8, 2017

Recently there has been confusion by some legal practitioners, which has led to the incorrect use the title “principal”.

Under the Uniform Law a principal of a law practice has greater responsibilities and liabilities than an employed legal practitioner. It is important that the title accurately reflects the legal practitioner’s position in the law practice.

Section 6 of the Uniform Law defines a principal of a law practice to be an Australian Legal Practitioner who:

(a) in the case of a sole practitioner—is the sole practitioner; or
(b) in the case of a law firm—is a partner in the firm; or
(c) in the case of a community legal service—is a supervising legal practitioner of the service referred to in section 117; or
(d) in the case of an incorporated legal practice or an unincorporated legal practice—

(i) holds an Australian practising certificate authorising the holder to engage in legal practice as a principal of a law practice; and
(ii) is—

(A) if the law practice is a company within the meaning of the Corporations Act—a validly appointed director of the company; or
(B) if the law practice is a partnership—a partner in the partnership; or
(C) if the law practice is neither—in a relationship with the law practice that is of a kind approved by the Council under section 40 or specified in the Uniform Rules for the purposes of this definition.

Most importantly, misuse of the title “principal” by legal practitioners who are not principals under the Uniform Law may be misleading or simply untrue and may confuse and mislead the Courts, consumers or other members of the legal profession.

This information has also been published on the Legal Services Council website.