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Commissioner Update - March 2022

In this edition:

  • Introduction from the Commissioner
  • End of CPD year
  • End of Trust year
  • PC renewals will open 28 March
  • Where lawyers are located in Victoria
  • VLSB+C grants program open
  • VLF grants program open
  • New podcasts from the LPLC: starting a new practice and supervision
  • LIV Essential Briefing – 3 March
  • LIV Accredited Specialisation Program 2022
  • Extension of the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme 

Welcome to the start of another practising year.

As we enter year three of the pandemic, I wanted to acknowledge the important work lawyers do and the role you play within the community. While the last two years have been incredibly difficult for many of us, lawyers have continued to go above and beyond to provide good quality and accessible legal services under often challenging circumstances. I particularly want to acknowledge the diversity of ways in which lawyers continue to make a difference. Whether you work in private practice, the community legal sector, as a government lawyer or as in-house counsel, you all play a vital role in supporting our community. 

This year marks 25 years of legal regulation by the VLSB+C and its predecessors. I recently took the time to reflect on what has changed over the last 25 years. The legal profession is certainly a different place from 1997.

There are some interesting changes to demographics:

  • In 1997 there were just over 7,500 lawyers, while today we number over 25,500
  • Women now outnumber men at 53% of the profession, compared to only 27% in 1997

Some of the tools lawyers use to help them in their practice have changed over the last 25 years – we now have computers, email and mobile devices to support our work. And most recently, COVID disruptions have rapidly increased take up of the use of video and online tools, both to provide advice and also help clients access the courts or mediations. Many of these new ways of working will likely stay with us.  While this can create some challenges, it has also helped people who can’t travel - perhaps due to disability or distance - to access services that may have previously been difficult or impossible to reach.

We’ve also seen lawyers think about the needs of their clients in different ways. They’re finding gaps in the legal market and designing services to meet these. And many are re-designing the way they deliver these services – taking a “user centred” approach, which puts the client at the centre of how they work.

What hasn’t changed though, is the critical work that so many lawyers do to support access to justice and the administration of justice in Victoria. While sometimes this makes the news, in the vast majority of cases, it is work that happens quietly, day in day out.

Most lawyers do pro bono work because of our commitment to the administration of justice; to the good operation of the system. This commitment in turn springs from the fundamental ethical obligation that underpins everything that lawyers do – our obligation to the courts and the administration of justice. This is our primary obligation, above all others. This has not changed over the last 25 years, and won’t change in the years ahead either. 

As we start a new year, I encourage you to re-commit to this fundamental obligation and continue to play your part in the administration of justice and upholding the rule of law.

Fiona McLeay

Board CEO and Commissioner

End of CPD year – 31 March

The Continuing Professional Development year will end on 31 March. You need to have completed 10 units of CPD (or pro-rata) by 31 March 2022.
For information on: 

  • applying for an exemption
  • how many pro-rata units you need if you didn’t work a full year
  • the reinstatement of the cap on private study and
  • what to look for in your CPD

please read our CPD information.  

End of trust year – 31 March

The trust year ends on 31 March. All law practices and barristers’ clerks that operate trust accounts are required to have their trust records examined.

Now is the time to contact your External Examiner and ensure that your trust account records, including reconciliations, are up to date and make arrangements to undertake your law practice’s annual trust account examination.

Key dates for 2022:

  • LSB Online opens for completion of the Part A and Part B forms by law practices and approved barristers’ clerks on 4 April
  • Part A and Part B forms due by 30 April
  • External Examiner reports due by 31 May

In 2021, an unprecedented amount of law practices were unable to comply with their trust account obligations. Read more about what to look out for and how to make sure you’re complying with all your obligations here.

Practising certificate renewals open 28 March

LSB Online will open for practising certificate renewals on Monday 28 March.
We will send you a reminder in March with more details. In the meantime, there are a few simple steps you can take to make the process as smooth as possible:

  • If you have changed jobs or contact details, log into LSB Online now and update your details
  • Check you have completed 10 points of CPD and if not, read our article on CPD above

Where lawyers are located in Victoria

There are over 25,500 lawyers registered in Victoria. As part of the annual practising certificate renewal process we collect a range of demographic information, including the location of where lawyers are practising. 

The chart below shows the distribution and concentration of lawyers across Victoria based on the suburb listed within their address for service. It shows a significant concentration of lawyers in the Melbourne metropolitan area, as well as numerous locations across the state where there are no lawyers registered at all.

Where lawyers are located in Victoria - Map

You can read more about this, and the part VLSB+C is playing in improving access to justice in the regions here.

VLSB+C grants program

The VLSB+C offers grants to non-profit organisations that aim to improve the administration of laws, increase access to justice, improve legal services, pilot innovations and/or inform and educate the wider community about legal services. 

Last year we provided $1.4 million in grants to seven legal and community organisations to help vulnerable Victorians gain access to legal services.

Applications for this year’s grants round are now open. You can find out more about the criteria for grants and how to apply on our website. Applications close Friday 4 March 2022.

Victoria Law Foundation grants

Up to $20,000 in grants is available for community legal organisations and not-for-profit community groups that help the community to navigate civil issues and the Victorian justice system.

The grants are made available through the Victoria Law Foundation’s Community Legal Grants program.

These grants will fund one-off projects that address a demonstrated legal need for a specific community. Examples of appropriate projects include (but are not limited to): 

  • development of a new resource or tool
  • workshops for community education on a specific legal topic, and
  • pilot projects that offer new approaches to delivering legal information.

The VLF only funds organisations – individuals are not able to apply.

Applications close 5:00pm on Monday 7 March 2022. For more information, visit the Victoria Law Foundation website.

Two new podcasts from the LPLC

Reframing supervision as the greatest compliment – with Leadership Development Specialist, Anna Hinder

LPLC Podcast - Anna Hinder

How important is good supervision for risk management? Are good supervisors born or made? What are the red flags that indicate poor supervision? This podcast will be of interest to supervisors who want to improve their own supervision techniques, or those being supervised and who’d like to work with their supervisors to improve the process and outcomes.

Starting your own practice — bring a new mindset – with lawyer and consultant to the legal profession, Liz Harris

LPLC Podcast - Liz Harris

A workforce disruption has taken place across the legal sector in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Some lawyers are leaving employment in established firms to start their own practices only to find they aren’t prepared for what is required in the shift to working on the business as well as working in the business. In this podcast the LPLC talks to Victorian Legal Services Board member, Liz Harris about how new law practice owners can shift their mindset to becoming a new business owner as well as a lawyer providing a service.

2022 LIV Essential Briefing on the State of the Profession – Thursday 3 March

Join the LIV’s 2022 Essential Briefing on the State of the Profession and hear how leaders in the profession expect 2022 to play out. 

Keynote presentations from the Attorney-General of Victoria, Chief Justice of Victoria and Victorian Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner are followed by a panel discussion in which representatives from city and regional private practices, government, and in-house lawyers discuss how COVID has affected their practices, what opportunities we can leverage, how to meet ongoing professional and personal challenges.

For more information and to register, visit the LIV website here.

LIV Accredited Specialisation Program 2022

This year the LIV is offering accreditation in Children’s Law, Commercial Law, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Environment & Planning Law, Immigration Law, Wills & Estates and Workplace Relations

The program is a sector led certification that demonstrates a high level of theoretical knowledge that is practically applied in day-to-day matters. Accredited Specialisation is a peer founded, self-directed, non-syllabus-based program for experienced lawyers. Lawyers need to demonstrate superior knowledge, experience and proficiency in a particular area of law to become an accredited specialist, and need to maintain their accreditation. Becoming a specialist sets lawyers apart as an expert in their field, providing a definitive mark of excellence for peers and clients.  Currently the program accredits over 1,100 specialists across 16 areas of law.

The 2022 program will be delivered digitally, allowing greater access to lawyers. You can register your interest to be notified when applications open. To find out more visit the LIV website.

Extension of the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme

The Victorian Small Business Commission has developed a number of resources to assist tenants and landlords following the Victorian Government’s extension of the Commercial Tenancy Relief Scheme. For more information, see the VSBC’s web page for tenants and landlords and if you have any questions, contact the VSBC

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