Remote supervision arrangements - Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Remote supervision arrangements

‘Remote supervision’ is where one lawyer supervises another, but the two lawyers are either based in different locations, or employed by different law practices.

In these cases the lawyer being supervised should seek the Board’s approval for the remote supervision arrangement.

The Board’s Supervised Legal Practice Policy (159KB PDF) and Guidelines for Supervisors web page apply to remote supervision arrangements.

Rule 7 of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015 allows an employee of a law practice whose practising certificate does not carry the supervision condition, to supervise an employee of the law practice whose practising certificate does carry the condition. It also allows a lawyer to be supervised by an appropriately qualified lawyer who is employed at a different law practice. Similar arrangements may also be made in respect of the supervision of government and corporate practising certificate holders.

Considerations

Supervision of any type should involve both formal and informal communications, including one-on-one meetings, and should enable a relationship in which the supervised lawyer can bring issues, including mistakes, to the attention of their supervisor.

Issues which must be carefully considered and included in any remote supervision proposal made to the Board are:

  • the logistics of contact, how regular one-on-one meetings will be conducted and how the supervisor can be contacted by the supervised lawyer at all other times;
  • how the supervisor will manage the supervised lawyer’s workflow if they are not employed in the same law practice or are based in a different location;
  • how correspondence and advice will be reviewed and feedback provided to the supervised lawyer as well as the frequency of such review and feedback;
  • how the supervisor will access files and documents necessary for the supervisor to review all legal work performed by the supervised lawyer. Issues of client confidentiality must be carefully considered; and
  • the experience of the supervisor and the supervised lawyer and details of the role (including areas of legal practice). The supervisor’s experience in the jurisdiction in which the supervised lawyer will be practising is a relevant consideration.

It is necessary to develop prescriptive procedures around remote supervision.  As indicated above, such procedures should address the hurdles such as accessibility of the supervisor and the lack of face-to-face contact.

As part of the remote supervision arrangement, supervisors and their supervised lawyers should consider how technology can be utilised to facilitate the remote supervision arrangement.

Application to the Board for approval of a remote supervision arrangement

To assess the remote supervision arrangement, the Board requires a written proposal from the employer, supervisor and supervised lawyer setting out the supervision that will be provided.  The proposal should confirm the supervisor will have authority in respect of all legal work performed and will be able to direct, amend, override or intervene in relation to same.

The proposal should demonstrate how the supervisor will:

  • have daily contact with the supervised lawyer;
  • assign work to the supervised lawyer that is within their capabilities;
  • actively manage the supervised lawyer’s workflow;
  • be aware of all work being undertaken by the supervised lawyer;
  • be aware of instructions the supervised lawyer might receive directly from clients;
  • conduct regular and structured one-on-one meetings with the supervised lawyer;
  • review all correspondence and advice prepared by the supervised lawyer;
  • be available to discuss issues with the supervised lawyer as they arise (“open door policy”);
  • tailor the style of supervision to the supervised lawyer;
  • encourage the supervised lawyer to approach them with mistakes; and
  • consider whether they require training/feedback on how to supervise.

The proposal should also detail the experience of the supervisor and the supervised lawyer and details of the role (including the area of legal practice).

The employer, supervisor and supervised lawyer may choose to formalise the arrangement in a Deed of Agreement or similar.

The Board will consider whether the proposed remote supervision arrangement is adequate in all the circumstances, based on the considerations set out at paragraph 3.13 of the Board’s Supervised Legal Practice Policy (159KB PDF).

The Board is more likely to be satisfied with an arrangement whereby the supervisor:

  • provides regular, structured supervision in person;
  • consistently “checks in” on the supervised lawyer and has an agreed upon schedule for doing so;
  • clearly communicates routines and expectations to enable work to be completed and reviewed in a timely manner; and
  • demonstrates an understanding of the environment the supervised lawyer is working in and the potential challenges the supervised lawyer faces.

Arrangements whereby the supervised lawyer is the only legal practitioner at a law practice are unlikely to be approved, as the supervised lawyer will effectively be acting as principal of the law practice.

If the remote supervision arrangement is approved

If the remote supervision arrangement is approved, the Board strongly recommends that a notice be provided in all engagement letters to clients stating the supervised lawyer is engaging in supervised legal practice only, and provide contact details for the supervisor.

Application for removal of supervised legal practice condition

When the supervised lawyer completes their period of supervision and applies for removal of the supervised legal practice condition from their practising certificate, a copy of the remote supervision arrangement, as approved by the Board, must be annexed to the supervised lawyer’s Statutory Declaration.  Further, the Statutory Declaration should detail the nature of the supervision provided (in addition to the information contained in the template Statutory Declaration (120KB PDF)).

Last modified June 12, 2018.