Incorporated legal practices - Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Incorporated legal practices

What is an ILP?

An incorporated legal practice (ILP) is a corporation that is permitted under the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria) to engage in legal practice.

Subject to Part 3.7 of the Uniform Law, any corporation is eligible to be an ILP if it intends to engage in legal practice in Victoria unless it is a Community Legal Service or is otherwise excluded from being an ILP by the Uniform Rules. A corporation cannot provide legal services if expressly prohibited by any law under which it is incorporated or its affairs are regulated. A ‘corporation’ means a company within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), or approved by the Legal Services Council, or specified by the Uniform Rules.

An ILP may also provide services other than legal services, except those that are expressly prohibited by the Uniform Law.

An ILP is not itself required to hold an Australian practising certificate.

Notification of intention to engage in legal practice

Before it starts to engage in legal practice in Victoria, a corporation must give written notice to the Victorian Legal Services Board in the approved form at least 14 days before starting to engage in legal practice. A corporation may not hold itself out as entitled to engage in legal practice in Victoria before it has given the appropriate notification.

An ILP must also give the Board written notice in the approved form within 14 days after it ceases to engage in legal practice.

The Uniform Law imposes civil pecuniary penalties upon corporations that fail to comply with these requirements.

Principals

An ILP must have at least one principal who holds an Australian practising certificate authorising legal practice.

If an ILP ceases to have any principal, the ILP must notify the Board as soon as possible. The principal must be replaced within 7 days or the ILP must cease to provide legal services. It is an offence for an incorporated legal practice to provide legal services in Victoria during any period it is non-compliant with relevant requirements under the Uniform Law.

Principals also maintain the usual professional obligations of an Australian legal practitioner, including as imposed under Uniform Rules.

The Uniform Law also imposes specific obligations upon principals, including deeming principals liable for any contraventions by the law practice.

Principals should be familiar with their obligations under the Uniform Law.

Disqualified persons

The Uniform Law sets out circumstances in which a person is considered ‘a disqualified person’. A disqualified person is prohibited from seeking to become a lay associate of a law practice unless they inform the law practice of the disqualification. A law practice must not have a lay associate who the principal or legal practitioner associate of the practice knows is a disqualified person unless that person is approved by the Victorian Legal Services Board. Penalties apply for breaches of these provisions.

Professional indemnity insurance

The Uniform Law requires each ILP to hold an approved insurance policy before engaging in legal practice in Victoria and that policy must cover the legal practice in which it is engaged.

ILPs that have a permanent office in this jurisdiction and only in one other jurisdiction and maintains professional indemnity insurance in the other Australian jurisdiction (in accordance with corresponding laws) may apply for an exemption from this requirement.

ILPs that have a permanent office in this jurisdiction and in at least two other jurisdictions and maintains professional indemnity insurance in one of the other Australian jurisdiction (in accordance with corresponding laws) is exempt from this requirement.

For further information see Professional indemnity insurance.

Trust accounts

An ILP that receives trust money must maintain a general trust account in Victoria in accordance with the Uniform Law, its regulations and any applicable rules.

For further information see Trust money and Trust accounts.

Incorporating or structuring your law practice

The Board does not provide legal or professional advice on incorporating or structuring your law practice.

Last modified April 15, 2016.