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We are responsible for a broad range of functions, including:
- issuing, renewing, suspending, cancelling and imposing conditions upon practising certificates;
- maintaining the Victorian Legal Profession Register;
- administering funds set out under the Act;
- monitoring, inspecting and investigating lawyers’ trust accounts;
- investigating and determining claims against the Fidelity Fund;
- administering external interventions of law practices;
- advising the Legal Services Council on the making of legal profession rules;
- prosecuting breaches of the Act, including applying for removal of lawyers’ names from the Supreme Court roll where necessary; and
- making grants to enhance the legal system, legal services and legal education.
Some of these functions are currently delegated to the professional associations: the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar.
Please note: we don't provide legal or professional advice to lawyers or members of the public.
Compliance and Enforcement
Our statutory objectives include ensuring the effective regulation of the legal profession in Victoria. A broad range of compliance and enforcement powers under the Legal Profession Uniform Law support these regulatory objectives, including:
- practising certificate restriction;
- external intervention (such as receivership or management);
- criminal prosecution; and
- application to the Supreme Court for removal from the roll.
We have issued a regulatory statement setting out our strategic approach to regulation which is available on the About the Board and Commissioner page.
We have developed a policy to guide us and our delegates in how we use our compliance and enforcement powers. The policy includes a table which sets out the general criteria for exercising each level of response.
We, along with our delegates, have the power to prosecute criminal and contempt offences under the Act.
The Compliance and Enforcement Policy (see below) guides the exercise of our prosecution powers. Breaches of any sections of the Act are also capable of constituting unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct (also known as disciplinary offences). For information about previous disciplinary prosecutions, see the Complaints and disciplinary outcomes section, and the Register of Disciplinary Action.
A list of offences under the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic) is available below.
Removal from the Roll
We have a number of functions under the Act that involve considering whether to apply to the Supreme Court to remove a lawyer from the local roll. We may also consider applying for removal under the inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
The Compliance and Enforcement Policy guides us in how it considers applications for removal.
Commissioner initiated complaints
The Commissioner can initiate a complaint and commence an investigation into the conduct of a lawyer, even where a complaint has not been made by another person, or if a complaint has been withdrawn. These are called ‘Commissioner initiated complaints’. They were previously called ‘own motion investigations’.
This is an important power as it enables the Commissioner to investigate conduct that is improper or unsatisfactory where clients and/or witnesses may not be sufficiently aware of proper legal practices to raise a complaint. Conduct outside of legal practice may also be deemed inappropriate. Accordingly this is a significant consumer protection power.
Types of Commissioner initiated complaints
A Commissioner initiated complaint may be undertaken in any number of circumstances, including the following:
- where a disciplinary complaint is withdrawn and the Commissioner considers that the investigation should continue
- following receipt of a trust account investigation report
- following receipt of a referral by a Judge or Magistrate about a lawyer’s conduct in Court
- following identification of improper conduct of a lawyer in the media
- following identification of improper conduct in an investigation by the Commissioner into some other conduct; or
- following receipt of a report by another agency such as the Office of Public Prosecutions about a criminal prosecution of a lawyer.
There may be other occasions where the Commissioner is able to initiate a complaint.
Actions following an investigation
Following an investigation, the Commissioner has a range of powers. Where the Commissioner is satisfied that the lawyer would be found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Commissioner may:
- order a caution or a reprimand;
- order an apology;
- order the lawyer or law practice associate to redo the legal work at no cost, or to reduce or waive the costs for that work
- order further training, education, counseling or supervision
- issue a fine up to $25,000
- recommend a condition be applied to the lawyer’s practising certificate
- bring charges against the lawyer before VCAT;
Where the Commissioner is satisfied that the lawyer would be found guilty of professional misconduct by VCAT, the Commissioner can bring charges against the lawyer before VCAT.