Working with your lawyer
Most people deal with lawyers on limited occasions: for example, when buying a house or making a will. It is not unusual for people who are unfamiliar with the law to be uncertain of how to find, work with or understand what to expect from lawyers.
The Victorian Legal Services Commissioner has produced a fact sheet called ‘Working with your lawyer’ (207KB PDF) that may help you to develop and maintain a positive and productive relationship with your lawyer. This fact sheet is also translated into 22 languages other than English which are available on our Fact sheets page:
Arabic, Assyrian, Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Dari, Dinka, Filipino (Tagalog), French (colonial), Greek, Italian, Karen (Burmese), Khmer, Macedonian, Nepalese, Persian (Farsi), Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese.
Your rights as a client
The Commissioner has produced several fact sheets which may help you understand your rights and responsibilities when working with a lawyer. These are available from our Fact sheets page.
Does your lawyer hold a current practising certificate?
All lawyers who hold a current Victorian practising certificate are listed on the Victorian Legal Profession Register. Your lawyer must hold a current practising certificate before being eligible to engage in legal practice. You can check whether your lawyer holds a current practising certificate by confirming they are listed on the Register.
What if my lawyer is not on the Register?
If you cannot find the name of your lawyer on the Register, there may be more than one explanation:
- You may have your lawyer’s name incorrect or your lawyer may be known by a different name (for example, they may prefer to use a shortened version of their given name, yet be registered under their full first name, or they may use their family name as a first name). Try a search using only their given name or their family/surname instead.
- Check that you have the correct spelling of the lawyer’s name.
- Your lawyer may not appear on the Register because they do not hold a current Victorian practising certificate. In this case they may still be entitled to practise if they hold a practising certificate from interstate. This might be the case if your lawyer resides or practises primarily interstate, or has recently moved from interstate. You can usually check similar registers held by the interstate regulatory authorities to try to find your lawyer listed on one of these.
You can also ask to see your lawyer’s current practising certificate.
There are only limited instances in which a person can engage in legal practice without holding a practising certificate. In most cases if the person does not hold a current practising certificate, they are not entitled to engage in legal practice in Victoria and may be engaging in unqualified legal practice. This is a serious offence and carries a maximum penalty of two-years imprisonment. The Victorian Legal Services Board is responsible for investigating allegations of unqualified legal practice. If you suspect this is the case, please contact the Board with the relevant details.
The Commissioner can receive complaints regarding legal costs up to a total of $100,000, or greater if the amount in dispute does not exceed $10,000. The Commissioner has prepared the following fact sheets for consumers about their rights in relation to legal costs:
- Meeting a lawyer – your first appointment (151KB PDF)
- Legal costs – What rights does a consumer have? (250KB PDF)
- No win – No fee costs agreements (358KB PDF)
Do you have a problem with a lawyer?
If you have a problem with a lawyer, there are several things you can do to help resolve the issue before it escalates into a potential complaint. The What to do when a problem arises page provides a detailed explanation of the steps to take to resolve an issue for yourself, the limitations on what the Commissioner can deal with and the process for making a complaint.
Regulation of conveyancers
Conveyancing work may be performed by either lawyers or by people who are not lawyers. The Board regulates lawyers who work as conveyancers, however is not able to regulate non-lawyer conveyancers, unless they work for and under the supervision of a lawyer. For more information on the regulation of conveyancers, see our Lawyers and conveyancing page.