Employees, consultants and other income sharers of law practices who are not Australian legal practitioners are referred to as lay associates under the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria). Lay associates may work in management, secretarial, financial, human resources, administrative, clerical and other support roles.
Lay associates who have previously been found guilty or convicted of a serious offence (any indictable offence), or who have been disqualified from legal practice, are prohibited from being employed by a law practice without the permission of the Victorian Legal Services Board.
Law practices include sole practitioners, incorporated and unincorporated legal practices and community legal services.
Disclosure requirements for lay associates
Any lay associate who is a disqualified person, or has been convicted or found guilty of a serious offence must not seek to become a lay associate of a law practice unless the person first informs the law practice of the disqualification or conviction.
NOTE: Any approvals and disqualification orders made under the Legal Profession Act 2004 continue to survive under the Uniform law transitional provisions.
Permission to employ a prohibited lay associate
The Board may grant permission for a law practice to employ a prohibited lay associate under certain circumstances. The law practice must apply to the Board for approval to employ the prohibited lay associate before employment is offered. Unless the Board grants this approval, a law practice must not employ a person who the practice knows to be a disqualified person or a person who has been convicted or found guilty of a serious offence.
The Board has approved a Policy – Lay Associate Guidelines (135KB PDF) to assist the legal profession understand the legal requirements concerning employing lay associates, and to outline the process for obtaining approval for employing a prohibited lay associate.
It is a criminal offence if a law practice has a lay associate whom any principal or other legal practitioner associate of the law practice knows to be—
(a) a disqualified person; or
(b) a person who has been convicted (or found guilty) of a serious offence—
unless the lay associate is approved by the Board.
For further information on disqualified or convicted persons as lay associates and law practice responsibilities, see the Board’s Policy – Lay Associate Guidelines (135KB PDF) and the Board’s fact sheet FAQs – Prohibited lay associates (321KB PDF).