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Information pack for new lawyers

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This page contains information for lawyers who receive their first practising certificate. 

Welcome from the Commissioner

Congratulations on receiving your first practising certificate in Victoria and welcome to the legal profession! Becoming a lawyer is a huge achievement, and one you should be very proud of.

Law is a fantastic career. The work is often intellectually stimulating and complex, and you can make a real difference to people's lives and to the community as a whole.

Who we are

The VLSB+C is the regulator of the legal profession in Victoria. We license lawyers and oversee their service delivery and conduct. This includes handling complaints about lawyers, investigating poor conduct and overseeing lawyers’ management of trust accounts. We are also the stewards of the public purpose fund and administer this to support legal regulation and access to justice in Victoria.

Two of our core objectives at the VLSB+C are to protect and empower consumers and to improve legal practice and ethics. We encourage you to understand and be responsive to your clients’ needs. As lawyers, you can also influence public policy more broadly, especially if you work in government or not for profit organisations.

It can be extremely satisfying work, filled with meaning and purpose. It can also be challenging at times, so it's important to look after yourself and look out for your colleagues as you practice. You can find out more about our role here.

Your obligations

Each year you need to renew your practising certificate and declare that you are a fit and proper person to practise law. This is more than just an administrative task, it’s a time for you to reflect on the year just finished, and plan to maintain and improve your standards of practice and ethics in the year ahead.  

Being a fit and proper person has many aspects, including abiding by the Legal Profession Uniform Law Conduct Rules for barristers and solicitors and holding yourself to a higher ethical standard of behaviour than the general public. It also means considering not only whether you can do something, but whether you should do it – is it the right thing to do, and how does it impact your clients and the community?

Your duty to the court

Your duty to the court and your commitment to the rules of the profession are essential to ethical and professional practice. The Conduct Rules set standards of professional conduct. It is your duty as an officer of the court and your obligation as a fit and proper person to know and follow these rules, obey and uphold the law and maintain professional independence and the integrity of the legal profession.

Support available

Navigating the regulatory requirements can be daunting as you start out. We are here to help you with any questions about your practising certificate, your supervision and other regulatory issues. Remember that the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar both operate ethics support services. And your colleagues should be a good source of guidance too.

In this email you will find important information about navigating the first few years of your career, including guidance about setting up and managing your supervision. I also encourage you to read the resources for early career lawyers we have available on our website

I wish you all the best with your new careers.

Be well,

Fiona McLeay
Board CEO + Commissioner

About your practising certificate

Your practising certificate is valid from the day it is issued until 30 June each year. In March/April we will email you to remind you to renew your certificate. You need to do this every year. The information below highlights the things you should think about during the year to make renewing your certificate easy.

Keep your details up-to-date in LSB Online so you don't miss our emails about renewing. We also send you information throughout the year about important regulation issues.

Make sure you update this in LSB Online. We have detailed instructions on how to do this, check out the LSB Online Resources page for details.

If anything happens that we should know about, tell us during the year – not at renewals. For example, show cause events (such as being found guilty of a criminal offence) need to be disclosed to us within 7 days of these happening.

Each year at practising certificate renewal you need to declare that you've completed your CPD. If you don't think you'll be able to meet the CPD requirements, let us know early. 

Supervised legal practice

Your first practising certificate generally comes with a supervised legal practice condition. This means you must be supervised when you carry out legal work. Once you are eligible to have the condition removed you must apply to us to request this – it doesn’t happen automatically. Depending on whether you have completed a period of supervised legal training, or an approved practical legal training course, you could be eligible to have this removed after 18 months or two years.

Both you and your supervisor are responsible for ensuring you meet the requirements of the condition. There is more information on our website about who can supervise you, what you should expect from your supervisor and how to apply to have the condition removed. Supervised legal practice requirements are listed as follows:

Length of supervision

  • 18 months to 2 years.

Your supervisor

  • Must be qualified and eligible.  
  • Should work for the same organisation as you. 
  • Should monitor your work, teach you new legal skills and train you on things like time management, prioritisation and interpersonal engagement.
  • Should guide and support your ethical development, helping you to identify ethical issues as they occur in practice.

Your work

  • Only 'legal practice' practice’ counts towards your supervision period. This could be giving legal advice, interpreting and applying legislation or case law for use of a client, or drafting legal documents.

Getting the most from supervision

  • Have daily contact.
  • Ask for feedback.
  • Have regular one to one meetings to discuss the files you’re working on.
  • Share your mistakes with your supervisor and learn from them.
  • Work with them to plan your learning and development, including appropriate formal CPD.

Removal of condition

Continuing professional development

Each year you need to complete ten points of formal CPD. You must complete at least one point in each of the following four fields:

  • ethics and professional responsibility
  • practice management and business skills;
  • professional skills; and
  • substantive law (which includes practice, procedure and evidence for barristers).

This isn’t just a requirement of the rules of being a lawyer, it’s critical to improving your practice and providing high quality services to the community. The CPD year runs from 1 April to 31 March the following year, and you’ll be asked to certify that you have completed your CPD when you apply to renew your practising certificate.

For new lawyers, reflection and planning of CPD is important to set you up for long-term success. We recommend preparing a learning and development plan to help you to identify the types of CPD activities and topic areas that are:

  • most practical and relevant to your area of practice;
  • nuanced to your level of experience and position.

Your supervisor and other senior lawyers you are working with will be able to give you valuable feedback on your development needs. There are many CPD providers in the market offering a range of activities – including the professional associations, education institutions, law firms, commercial providers and government agencies. Planning early and doing your research can help you get the most benefit from your CPD and set you up for lifelong learning. 

In your early career it is most important to ensure you develop good communication, time and file management skills and develop your ability to identify and manage ethical issues.  When planning your formal CPD consider looking for activities that prioritise these skills.

Look for CPD sessions that offer:

  • A level of discussion that is nuanced to your experience, practice area and your role and position.
  • An expert in the field who is an engaging presenter – look at reviews if you are not sure.
  • Learning outcomes that align with your development goals and include a topic that is new and presents a challenge to your current knowledge or way of practising. 

For ethics CPD, look for sessions that offer:

  • Interactivity and active participation.
  • Scenario-based problem solving.
  • Smaller groups, break-out sessions and longer formats.

More information about CPD is available in our CPD section.

Sexual harassment and bullying

In 2019 we conducted a study into sexual harassment in the Victorian legal profession. We heard from more than 2,300 lawyers and it was clear that this is a significant and pervasive issue. Sexual harassment was most likely to happen to women, who were in junior positions, in the early stages of their careers.

Sexual harassment is unethical. It is also against the law, and for lawyers it can amount to professional misconduct.

Our website has valuable resources to help you understand what sexual harassment is, what to do if you experience or witness it and how to make a complaint. You can make a formal complaint to us, or you can report anonymously using our secure anonymous reporting tool.

Bullying can also be a problem in some legal workplaces. Sixty-one per cent (61%) of Australian respondents to the International Bar Association’s 2018 global survey on sexual harassment and bullying in the legal profession reported experiencing workplace bullying. Bullying creates a significant risk to your health and safety, and can have a range of negative effects, including depression, psychological distress and emotional exhaustion.  

Our workplace bullying webpage provides information about what you can do if you experience bullying and how you can report this to us.

For more information about how to recognise and respond to bullying in the workplace, visit:

Report sexual harassment

You can report sexual harassment to

Report bullying in the workplace

You can report bullying in the workplace to

Wellbeing

Although working in law can be very rewarding, there is no doubt it can be challenging and stressful, and that your personal wellbeing can be compromised. We know that stress and burnout, vicarious trauma and mental illness are far too common across the profession. This can become a regulatory issue, such as in cases of misconduct or error brought on by stress or poor mental health.

Our Mental Health Policy clearly states that you don’t need to tell us about your mental health issues unless they are impacting on your work. Mental health is as important as physical health so we encourage you to seek appropriate treatment if you need it. You should be able to treat and manage a mental illness without worrying that it will have professional consequences.

If you need to get in touch with us about your mental health, we commit to treating you fairly and sensitively. Such disclosures can be made to us confidentially and we will perform our function without discrimination.

Get help

  • In an emergency: call 000
  • For immediate mental health support: Call Lifeline Crisis Support on 13 11 14

Dedicated mental health and wellbeing services for lawyers:

  • Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) member assistance program EAP service –
    1300 687 327 provides confidential, 24 hour wellbeing services for LIV members.
  • The Victorian Bar independent counselling services for members and their families:
    • Revision Group (03) 9650 5540
    • Converge International 1300 687 327

Resources

Lawyers have a board range of resources and access to support to assist them over the course of their career.

We are here to help you. There are resources on our website, or you can contact our team via our online form.

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