Foreign lawyers - Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Foreign Lawyers

The term ‘foreign lawyer’ refers to a person who is registered and entitled to engage in legal practice in a foreign country, who practises the law of that foreign country in Australia.

The practice of foreign law in Victoria is regulated by Part 3.4 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria).

Who can practise foreign law?

A person can only practise foreign law in Victoria if they:

  1. are an Australian-registered foreign lawyer – this is a person who holds a registration certificate as a foreign lawyer in an Australian state or territory; or
  2. are an Australian legal practitioner –  this is a person who is admitted to the legal profession in an Australian state or territory and holds a current practising certificate from an Australian state or territory.

Practise as a foreign-lawyer without registration is permitted for a limited period if they are registered and authorised to engage in legal practice in a foreign country in that country and they:

  • do not practise foreign law in Victoria for more than 90 days in any 12 month period; or
  • are subject to a restriction imposed under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) that limits the period that they may undertake work or transact business in Australia; and
  • do not maintain an office for the purpose of practising foreign law in Victoria and do not become a partner or a director of a law practice, and
  • have not had a previous registration certificate suspended or cancelled.

It is an offence to practise foreign law in Victoria in contravention of the Uniform Law. A person who does not fall within one of the above categories must apply to the Victorian Legal Services Board to become registered as a foreign lawyer, before practising foreign law in Victoria.

Scope of practice

The legal services that may be provided by Australian-registered foreign lawyers in Australia are restricted to those set out in section 69(2) of the Uniform Law. These include:

  • doing work, or transacting business, concerning the law of a foreign country where the lawyer is registered or authorised by the foreign registration authority for the country;
  • legal services (including appearances) in relation to proceedings before bodies other than courts, being proceedings in which the body concerned is not required to apply the rules of evidence and in which knowledge of the foreign law of a country in which the foreign lawyer is entitled to practice is considered by the Victorian Legal Services Board to be essential;
  • legal services in relation to arbitration proceedings or conciliation, mediation and other forms of consensual dispute resolution; and
  • legal services of a kind specified in the Uniform Rules.

Australian-registered foreign lawyers may not practise Australian law in Australia. Australian-registered foreign lawyers are subject to the general prohibitions from advertising, representing or implying that they are entitled to engage in legal practise in Victoria found in section 11 of the Uniform Law.

Form of practice

Subject to any conditions attached to their registration, an Australian-registered foreign lawyer may practise foreign law in one of the forms set out in section 70(1) of the Uniform Law . This includes as a sole practitioner or in partnership with one or more Australian legal practitioners or Australian-registered foreign lawyers.

Professional indemnity insurance

Pursuant to section 214 of the Uniform Law, an Australian-registered foreign lawyer who does not hold or is not covered by an approved insurance policy for this jurisdiction must provide a disclosure statement in writing to each client before, or as soon as practicable after, being retained for legal services in this jurisdiction stating—

  • whether or not the lawyer is covered by other professional indemnity insurance; and
  • if covered, the nature and extent of that insurance.

Failure to give notice of the above matters renders the foreign lawyer liable to civil pecuniary penalty.

Trust money and trust accounts

Australian-registered foreign lawyers who practise foreign law in Victoria must comply with trust money and trust account requirements. The provisions relating to trust money and trust accounts apply to Australian-registered foreign lawyers in the same way as they apply to Australian legal practitioners. Foreign currency trust accounts are not available at this time. For more information about trust money and trust accounts, see the Managing client money page.

Application for registration and fees

To apply for registration as a foreign lawyer, you must submit an Application for grant or renewal of registration as foreign lawyer  (120KB PDF) to the Board. The form must be accompanied by:

  • the appropriate registration fee (see below);
  • evidence that you are currently registered to engage in legal practice in another country;
  • evidence that you have appropriate professional indemnity insurance which covers you for the practice of foreign law in Victoria; and
  • if the application is for a registration certificate that authorises the receipt of trust money, evidence that you have completed the Board’s approved course of study. The Board has approved the Law Institute of Victoria trust account seminar for this purpose.

The registration fees for the 2015-16 practising year can be found on the Practising certificate fees page.

For more information on foreign lawyer registration applications, please see the notes accompanying the application form and the Board’s Foreign Lawyer Registration Policy (170KB PDF) .

Duration of registration

Registration as a foreign lawyer is in force from the date specified on the registration certificate until the end of the financial year in which the registration is granted (30 June).

If you wish to renew your registration, please complete the application form above and return it to the Board by 30 May each year.

Conditions

The Victorian Legal Services Board has power to impose any reasonable and relevant conditions on a foreign lawyer’s registration. Conditions may also be imposed under the Uniform Rules.

Professional, ethical and practice standards

An Australian-registered foreign lawyer is subject to the complaints and disciplinary procedures in Chapter 5 of the Uniform Law. Australian-registered foreign lawyers are therefore subject to the same professional, ethical and practice standards as those which apply to Australian legal practitioner practising Australian law

Interstate-registered foreign lawyers

An interstate-registered foreign lawyer is entitled to practise foreign law in Victoria to substantially the same extent as they are entitled to in the interstate jurisdiction in which they are registered. This is subject to any conditions imposed:

  • on their registration interstate;
  • by the Board;
  • by or under legal profession rules; and
  • by the Act.
Last modified June 22, 2016.