Consumers warned to confirm their legal representative is a qualified lawyer - Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Consumers warned to confirm their legal representative is a qualified lawyer

April 30, 2018

A business owner who advertised legal services and represented a parent in a family law matter, has been found guilty of unqualified legal practice.

The defendant appeared before the Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court in February 2018, after being charged by the Victorian Legal Services Board with unqualified legal practice.

The Board told the Court that the defendant had no legal qualifications, yet had acted for a father in a family law matter that involved parenting arrangements and consent orders for his child. The Court heard that over approximately five months the defendant wrote 12 letters on the father’s behalf to the law practice representing the child’s mother. The letters were written on letterhead that implied the defendant was a lawyer.

The Court also heard that the defendant advertised a range of legal services on her website, giving the impression that the business was a registered legal practice.

The defendant argued that she was merely running a business providing administrative and paralegal support, but ultimately pleaded guilty to one charge of unqualified legal practice and two charges of representing an entitlement to engage in legal practice.

The Court found the defendant guilty of each charge and fined her $1,500.

Board CEO, Fiona McLeay, said consumers should always be cautious when engaging someone they find on line to represent them in a legal matter.

‘Unfortunately there are unqualified people out there offering and providing legal services at cheap rates. Lower costs are naturally attractive to a consumer, but unqualified people do not have the training, qualifications or professional indemnity insurance that registered lawyers have. Consumers are therefore not protected if things go wrong,’ Ms McLeay said.

Consumers can check the Board’s website to find out if the person they are thinking of engaging to represent them in a legal matter is a currently registered lawyer.