In this issue:
- Introduction from the Commissioner
- New lawyer wellbeing resources
- Practising certificate renewals have closed
- Changes to supervised legal practice
- Six questions to ask about legal costs – consumer information
- New research into gender and intersectional inequality in Victoria’s legal sector
- New electronic appearances portal for County Court Civil and APSA Proceedings
- New LPLC webinar on family provision litigation
- Victoria Legal Aid improve accessibility through website redesign
I recently had the pleasure of attending a Legal Profession Uniform Law summit and dinner hosted by the Legal Services Council in Perth to celebrate Western Australia joining the Legal Profession Uniform Law scheme from the start of July. There was a great deal of excitement in the room about this new chapter in the Legal Profession Uniform Law and I was happy to join my regulatory colleagues in NSW in warmly welcoming WA into the Uniform Law family.
This is a significant milestone, with all lawyers in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia now under the same regulatory framework - representing about 75 per cent of the legal profession in Australia. It’s also an important step towards the goal of Australia having a national legal profession, operating under a national regulatory regime.
The Uniform Law scheme came into effect in Victoria and NSW on 1 July 2015, with WA signing an agreement to join in 2019. It harmonises regulation of the legal profession, cuts red tape and creates a single system to govern legal practice.
Specific benefits include a reduction in compliance costs for law practices operating across participating jurisdictions, thanks to a simpler legal framework and standardisation of regulatory obligations. Lawyers are also able to practise across state boundaries under uniform legislation and regulatory standards.
From a regulatory perspective, multiple jurisdictions operating under the same scheme provides a range of voices and views turning their minds to the most effective way to regulate. It also improves data sharing between jurisdictions, allowing for broader analysis of trends in the profession and monitoring of the most effective regulatory approaches. The recent summit in Perth was a good opportunity for me to share my priorities and, in turn, hear directly from our interstate colleagues about the challenges facing lawyers in WA and NSW. Unsurprisingly, many of the issues are shared, giving us scope to work together on potential solutions.
Benefits extend beyond legal professionals and regulators, as the scheme allows for consistent and robust protections for consumers of legal services. The Uniform Law increases consistency and creates clarity for consumers about what good lawyering looks like and what they can expect from Australian lawyers. Clients of law practices are empowered to make informed choices about costs and their legal options.
WA joining is a great outcome. It further extends the reach of the overarching objective of the Uniform Law – to promote the administration of justice and an efficient and effective Australian legal profession.
Board CEO and Commissioner
New lawyer wellbeing resources
We have developed a suite of resources on a range of topics relating to wellbeing in the law.
Good wellbeing is critical for all lawyers – professionally and personally. At a professional level, as we highlighted in our Lawyer Wellbeing Report, poor wellbeing is a barrier to lawyers being able to do their jobs effectively and provide quality legal services to Victorians. At a personal level, unfortunately, many lawyers experience relatively high rates of psychological distress.
Our new resources, available on our website, unpack the reasons why poor wellbeing is so common in the law and provide strategies to help you in tackling this issue.
Access the following resources:
- What to look out for – signs of poor wellbeing
- Why is poor wellbeing so common in law?
- Understanding the barriers lawyers face with seeking help for poor wellbeing
- What leaders in the law can do to create a wellbeing culture
- What can individual lawyers do to look after their wellbeing?
- How can early career lawyers set themselves up for a long career in the law?
Practising certificate renewals have closed
The 2022/23 practising certificate renewal period has now closed. The vast majority of applications have been processed and PCs issued. Processing of remaining applications is still underway. If you haven’t received your certificate yet, we will be sending you an email link to this when it is processed.
If you submitted a renewal application prior to 1 July, and it remains pending, please don’t worry. You can continue to practise with your 2021/22 certificate as long as you have paid your renewal fees and professional indemnity insurance. We won’t penalise you for our delays, so there is no need to contact us if you haven’t received your new certificate yet. Please note, we are prioritising the processing of PCs where you have altered the conditions of your certificate – for example, you changed you certificate type.
If you notified us from 1 July that you did not renew your PC in time, we are working through the assessment of these applications as a matter of priority. We appreciate this means you cannot practise until we assess and issue your PC and have therefore also prioritised these late applications.
If you are unsure whether you submitted a renewal application by 30 June, please log in to LSB Online to check. You can contact our team via our Lawyer enquiry form if you intended to practice from 1 July but you did not renew.
If you’re waiting on a response to an enquiry, we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Our LSB Online frequently asked questions page has more information.
Changes to supervised legal practice (SLP)
At the start of the pandemic, we made some changes to supervised legal practice to accommodate new ways of working. We introduced a requirement for supervised lawyers to enter into an agreed remote supervision plan with their supervisor. When applying to have the supervised legal practice condition removed from their practising certificate, supervised lawyers were required to submit a copy of their supervision plan to us.
However, as remote working arrangements have become common practice, you are no longer required to provide us with a copy of your plan. We still encourage supervised lawyers to enter into an agreed remote supervision plan with their supervisor, but this is not a requirement and we do not need to review a copy of the supervision plan if you and your supervisor both work for the same employer.
SLP where you and your supervisor are employed by different entities
Different rules apply if you and your supervisor are employed by different law practices or entities. We must approve a remote supervision arrangement before you start this supervision. The supervised lawyer must apply to us for that approval.
You can find helpful information on our website about important considerations when planning a remote supervision arrangement and how to submit the proposal to us.
Changes to LSB Online – self service
We have updated the LSB Online homepage to display if a lawyer is subject to a supervised legal practice condition. It’s visible via the ‘Your latest practicing certificates’ section.
We’ve also added a ‘my details’ section on the homepage, which displays information like your contact details and date and location of your admission. For those subject to SLP, this section also displays the first date your PC is valid from. It’s important you check these details are correct.
These updates make it easier for lawyers applying to remove their SLP condition. Access more information on SLP removal here.
Six questions to ask about legal costs – consumer information
Your initial consultation meeting is the perfect opportunity to set clear parameters with your client about your fees and charges.
Many consumers may be embarrassed to ask – how much will this cost me?
Our consumer checklist, ‘Six questions to ask about legal costs’ is available on our website, and is designed to prompt this conversation. We produced it in response to the high volume of complaints we receive from consumers about their lawyer’s bill. The checklist is available in alternate formats, including a video and Easy English document.
We encourage you to have this conversation early and make sure your client understands:
- your fees (including barrister’s fees, court fees or other expenses)
- your costs disclosure and the total estimate
- payment options, and
- what to do if they are unhappy.
You may avoid a cost complaint if your client can make an informed choice about hiring you and the costs involved. When they receive your final bill there should be no surprises, and the amount due should be within the total estimate provided.
New research into gender and intersectional inequality in Victoria’s legal sector
Women Legal Service Victoria has released its latest research into the state of gender inequality and intersectional forms of discrimination and disadvantage in Victoria’s legal and justice sector.
The ‘Gender and intersectional inequality: Power and privilege in Victoria’s legal and justice workforce’ report builds on the 2019 Starts With Us discussion paper that found entrenched sexism and gender inequality in legal and justice workplaces.
The findings draw on a survey of more than 300 legal and justice professionals, conducted in early 2021 and demonstrate the critical need for an intersectional approach to gender equality across the legal and justice sector.
Access the report and find out more about the wider Starts With Us project here.
New electronic appearances portal for County Court Civil and APSA Proceedings
The County Court of Victoria is pleased to announce the release of its electronic appearance portal for all Civil and Appeal and Post Sentence Application (‘APSA’) matters.
eAppearance, launched on 1 July, allows for all Victorian legal practitioners and self-represented litigants to register their appearance for any Civil or APSA matters via a secure, online portal, up to 14 days in advance of the hearing date. Solicitors may also register appearances for other practitioners, including counsel, and can cancel or amend these details prior to hearing if required.
The portal will replace the need for parties to complete an appearance sheet on the day of hearing. Once appearances have been lodged via eAppearance, parties will simply need to announce their attendance to judicial staff in the courtroom (whether on-site or virtually) prior to the commencement of hearing, in order for the Court to confirm their appearance.
All Victorian Legal Practitioners who are registered with the VLSB+C can sign-up for eAppearance using their practitioner number via this link: https://eappearance.countycourt.vic.gov.au. A user manual is available on the portal website.
New LPLC webinar on family provision litigation
The LPLC has released a new webinar on how to do the basics brilliantly to avoid claims in the area of family provision litigation.
The webinar, presented by Barrister Adam Craig, focuses on the importance of civil procedure, evidence, efficiency, preparation and managing costs as essential to setting up a good outcome, whether the case runs or settles. View the webinar here. Access more LPLC recorded webinars.
Victoria Legal Aid improve accessibility through website redesign
Victoria Legal Aid recently redesigned their web offering to improve accessibility. The new VLA website is now in line with other Victorian Government websites.
New features include improved navigation and search functionality, an interactive map of legal aid offices, and an improved design for viewing on a smartphone.
The website provides a contemporary, interactive platform that allows users to help themselves by accessing easy-to-use legal information, engaging with VLA services digitally and connecting to legal assistance.