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Becoming a principal lawyer

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Becoming a principal lawyer

If you want to begin your own law practice, you will need to apply for a principal practising certificate. Before we issue a new principal certificate, you must show us you have the skills and experience needed to run a law practice.

Please note: This applies to lawyers applying for their first principal practising certificate in Victoria or those applying for a principal practising certificate after not having held one for more than 3 years within the past 10 years. It does not apply to lawyers who hold a current principal practising certificate.

The skills you need

Law schools specialise in teaching legal and analytical skills. What they don’t teach are the skills needed to run a business. Skills such as financial administration, governance and risk management, strategic planning, and staff management are all essential to making sure a business runs smoothly.

Having a good understanding of these skills when running your own practice will help you avoid making mistakes, upsetting your clients and receiving complaints.

Showing you have the skills

The primary way you can show us that you possess the skills and experience required to run a law practice is to complete an approved Practice Management Course.

There are a number of practice management courses offered in Victoria or online. Please check the course outline meets our Practice Management Course Guidelines before undertaking a course to ensure it meets our standards and expectations.

In limited circumstances you may instead satisfy our Grant of a Principal Practising Certificate Policy in other ways.

You may have:

  • managed a law practice in the past; 
  • been a principal in a law firm in another Australian or common law jurisdiction; or 
  • completed formal studies in business management.

We will accept the following as evidence of your skills and experience:

  • a statutory declaration outlining your past relevant experience, specifically addressing the skills mentioned above,
  • a certificate of fitness or good standing from the legal regulator in the jurisdiction where you were a principal, and
  • letters from professional indemnity insurance providers, auditors or trust account examiners.

Starting up a new practice

When starting up a new practice, you need to let us know before your practice begins operating. See our Setting up a law practice page for information about when and how you have to notify us, and other things you may need to consider.

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