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Setting up a new law practice

In Victoria there are several different types of law practice. While they must all abide by the same legal profession rules and regulations, some must undertake further steps to meet our requirements. Some of these steps must be done before the practice can open for business.

Sole practitioners

A sole practitioner is a lawyer who runs their own law practice. They may employ other lawyers and non-lawyer staff, but they are solely responsible for the operations of the practice itself.

Setting up a sole practice

If you’re looking to set up your own sole practice, you must hold a principal practising certificate. If you have not held this type of certificate before, you must first show us you have the skills and experience needed to run a law practice before we will grant you a principal certificate. See our New principals page for further information.

You must also let us know at least 14 days before you commence legal work in your own sole practice.  We also ask you to let us know of any changes to your firm’s details (such as address, contact numbers etc) within 14 days. You can update your details via LSB Online.
Sole practitioners should also consider setting up a practice contingency plan to protect their business if they are unable to work for an extended period of time.

Barristers and barristers’ clerks

Barristers are a type of sole practitioner. They specialise in one or more areas of law, and work independently as advocates and advisors in those areas. Most barristers are members of the Victorian Bar.

Becoming a barrister

If you’re looking to become a barrister, contact the Victorian Bar.

Barristers’ clerks

Most barristers engage a clerk to help them manage their practice, and to receive and handle trust money on their behalf. Barristers’ clerks are approved by the Victorian Bar.

Barrister’s clerks must pay an annual contribution to the fidelity fund, however they do not have to hold a practising certificate.

Law firms

A law firm is a legal practice that has two or more partners. At least one partner must hold an Australian practising certificate. Australian-registered foreign lawyers can also be partners of law firms.

Setting up a law firm

If you’re setting up a new law firm, you must tell us at least 14 days before your new law firm commences practising.

You must also give us 14 days notice if:

  • there is any change to the information that we have about your firm; or 
  • you intend to end your legal practice in Victoria.

You can do this by completing one of these forms:

Incorporated legal practices

An incorporated legal practice (or ILP) is a business that can provide legal services alongside non-legal services such as accounting, financial planning, mortgage brokering and others. There are some restrictions on the types of services that ILPs may offer.

ILPs are registered as a company under commonwealth corporations law, and are controlled by a Board of Directors. An ILP must have at least one legal director who holds a principal practising certificate. The legal director is ultimately responsible and liable for any misconduct by the ILP’s legal division.

Setting up an ILP

The legal director must ensure that the new ILP holds a professional indemnity insurance policy that covers it for the type of legal work it undertakes.

The legal director must also let us know at least 14 days before the ILP starts providing legal services

Similarly, if the ILP has ceased providing legal services, the legal director must also let us know within 14 days

Sole directors of an ILP should also consider setting up a practice contingency plan to protect their practice if they are unable to work for an extended period of time.

Unincorporated legal practices

An unincorporated legal practice (ULP) is another type of business that provides both legal and non-legal services, however it is controlled by the individual partners or directors, not by a Board. As with ILPs, there are some restrictions on the services that ULPs may offer.

Setting up a ULP

A ULP does not have to be covered by professional indemnity insurance, however the individual lawyers who work for the ULP must each hold their own individual insurance cover.
When setting up a ULP, the principal must let us know at least 14 days before the ULP starts providing legal services

Similarly, if the ULP has ceased providing legal services, the principal must also let us know within 14 days

Community legal service

A Community legal service (CLS) is an organisation that provides free or low cost legal services to the community. Some CLSs provide specialist support and advice on a particular issue or to a particular sector of the community. Others provide legal services to people who live and work in a local region.

A CLS must employ one or more supervising lawyers as the principal of the practice. It can be staffed by paid employees and volunteers. Any lawyer can volunteer at a CLS providing they hold a current practising certificate of any type.

Setting up a CLS

A CLS can be either incorporated or unincorporated. If it has been incorporated, the CLS itself must be covered by a professional indemnity insurance policy. If it is unincorporated, each lawyer who is employed by or who volunteers at the CLS must hold their own individual insurance cover.

Some people are prohibited from working for a law practice

Some people have been disqualified by a court or tribunal from working in a law practice. Law practices who want to employ a prohibited person in any capacity must first seek our permission. For more information see our Lay Associates page.

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