17 May 2023
In this issue:
- Introduction from the Commissioner
- Risk Outlook 2023
- Human Source Management Act 2023
- Renew your practising certificate before 30 June
- Don’t miss your chance to have a say on SLP
- Law practice registration
- New public education campaign
- Designing for better customer experience
- Find legal answers to everyday problems at Law Week
- Law Week at the Law Library
- LIV membership renewal
- LPLC’s Professional Indemnity Insurance Portal open
- Free cybersecurity course for LPLC insured law practices
You may have heard us described as a “risk-based regulator”, but what does that mean? Simply put, we identify potential harms that can affect consumers of legal services or the reputation of the profession, and target our resources towards the areas of greatest harm. We consider what can be done to mitigate those harms, including providing relevant guidance to you – the lawyers who Victorians place their trust and confidence in every day.
This is where good communication is paramount, whether that communication is occurring between us and you, or you and your clients.
A new initiative we’re pleased to communicate is our Risk Outlook – a snapshot of key risks for the profession in 2023. If you have been following the news recently, you will not be surprised to see cybercrime topping the list. Lawyers are not immune, and recent reports of major data breaches across a range of industries that hold sensitive information should be a wake-up call to any law practice about the risk of ignoring the very serious threat posed by hackers and cybercriminals.
From a regulatory standpoint, we expect you to implement appropriate cybersecurity measures in accordance with your professional obligations to protect your clients’ money and confidential information. It is also very important to tell us immediately if a breach occurs, especially if it involves a trust account. You can do so via our lawyer enquiry form, and avoid making a bad situation potentially worse down the line.
Cybercrime is not our only area of concern, though, so it is worth taking the time to read the Risk Outlook in full. Over the course of the year, through our communications, we will focus on each of the five risk areas and provide guidance to help you avoid these risks. By communicating our priorities more clearly we want you to be better informed about what, why and how we regulate.
We’re also proud to announce our first public education campaign aimed at empowering consumers to exercise their “right to ask” you questions. This campaign responds to a key recommendation arising from the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. Developed with industry stakeholders, it underscores the benefits a positive and trusting lawyer-client relationship can have for everyone.
Board CEO and Commissioner
Risk Outlook 2023
Our first-ever Risk Outlook highlights five risks for the Victorian profession that are areas of regulatory focus for us this year.
- Costs disclosure non-compliance
- Non-compliance with trust money obligations
- Unethical conduct
- Inadequate supervision and oversight.
Under each risk, you will find descriptions of the associated issues and conduct – all of which have the potential to cause consumer harm – as well as explanations about our planned response to them. There are also some useful tips about how to avoid these risks.
We encourage you to have a read, consider each risk’s relevance to your workplace and, if necessary, follow our tips. We plan to publish a new Outlook annually, as part of ongoing efforts to improve how we communicate with lawyers.
We would appreciate you sharing the Outlook with staff, colleagues and peers. We're also interested in hearing your feedback, including whether you find it useful and any suggestions for improvement. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch and share this video for a brief overview of the year’s top five risks.
Human Source Management Act 2023
The Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants (RCMPI) recommended establishing a legislative scheme for the registration, use and management of human sources, and this recommendation has been implemented following the passage of the Human Source Management Act 2023.
It is important to be aware that, although the Act permits Victoria Police to register lawyers as human sources and use privileged information in specific circumstances (i.e. with the prior authorisation of the Supreme Court of Victoria), the Act does not change lawyers’ regulatory and professional obligations and duties.
I take this opportunity to remind all Victorian lawyers of your ethical, regulatory and professional obligations to maintain client confidentiality, other than in specific and confined circumstances. If you choose to inform on your clients to police, you are likely to do so in breach of these obligations, as well as your obligations to act in your clients' best interest, and to disclose or avoid any potential or actual conflict of interest.
Renew your practising certificate before 30 June
So far more than 17,000 lawyers have applied to renew their practising certificate and we are working hard to process all the renewals received.
If there were no changes to your practising certificate type, and you have paid your fees and any applicable insurance by 30 June, you can continue to practise on your current certificate until a new one is issued.
Haven’t renewed yet and not sure what to do?
We have developed a range of resources to help you renew, including step-by-step guides, videos and frequently asked questions. Before sending your question to us, check that it hasn’t already been answered.
If you know that you will not require a practising certificate after 30 June (i.e. you are retiring, you are moving to a non-legal role, or you are going on a period of extended leave), please log into LSB Online and click ‘Practising certificates’ and ‘Not renewing your practising certificate’ to let us know. This will remove you from our reminder list. You will be eligible to apply for a new practising certificate, without incurring a surcharge, if you return to legal practice.
Received an SMS from us?
During the renewal period we are sending SMS reminders to lawyers who we cannot contact via email. We will never ask for your password, or for any personal or payment details through SMS. Stay vigilant and ensure you are on our official website/LSB Online portal before entering any details.
Paying by BPAY?
If you have elected to pay your practising certificate fees by BPAY, make sure you have left enough time for the payment to process before 30 June. Payment needs to be received by 30 June for your renewal application to be considered valid and to be processed.
Left your application in draft?
If your application isn’t submitted by 30 June, any draft will be deleted and you will have to apply for a new practising certificate. You’ll also have to pay the 200% surcharge and won’t be able to practise until your new certificate is issued.
Are you subject to a Supervised Legal Practice (SLP) condition?
You will be notified when your condition has been removed and the condition will no longer appear on your practising certificate.
Don't miss your chance to have a say on supervised legal practice
There’s still time to take part in our annual PC Renewal survey, which this year is open to lawyers either currently undertaking supervised legal practice (SLP) in Victoria or who have completed it here in the last five years. If that includes you, we would love to hear your thoughts on SLP. We want to find out more about the experiences of lawyers during their SLP period, as we think it warrants closer study.
The survey should give us a clearer picture of the challenges faced by supervised lawyers in Victoria, so we can look at ways to better support them in the future. You can help by sharing your experiences – participation is voluntary, and your responses will be completely anonymous, meaning we will not be able to identify you or anyone who has supervised you based on your feedback. The survey runs until June 30.
Take the survey now
Law practice registration
With the end of financial year fast approaching, we often see movement in the profession as circumstances change and practitioners seek to register new law practices. With that in mind, now is a good time to remind yourself of the requirements for registering, updating details, and closing law practices.
Registering a law practice
If you are establishing a law practice in Victoria, through which legal services will be provided, you must give us at least 14 days written notice of your intention to do so. There are several types of law practices you can set up. While they must all abide by the Uniform Law, legal profession rules and regulations, some must take further steps to meet our requirements. To access further information, and the relevant registration forms, see setting up a law practice.
Updating details of a law practice
As a principal, you must ensure the details we hold about your law practice are correct. This includes notifying us, within 14 days, of the following changes:
- Change of contact details for the law practice, including address, branch office/s, phone number and email
- Change of law practice name
- Change of partner, director, and/or non-legal director.
You can update the details by submitting the Notification of change of information – law practice form via the lawyer enquiry form on our website.
Closing a law practice
If you no longer intend to provide legal services through your law practice, you must let us know. Notice of closing of a law practice must be provided to us no later than 14 days after the law practice ceases to engage in legal practice. There are other steps you must follow before closing your practice, including notifying your clients, transferring and storing documents, and closing any trust accounts. You can find further information on our website about closing a law practice as well as the termination form.
New public education campaign
In November 2020, the Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants handed down its report, with a recommendation that the VLSB+C, along with industry stakeholders, prepare and distribute communications aimed at restoring and promoting public and client confidence in the legal profession.
At the heart of this recommendation is the acknowledgement that the actions that led to the Royal Commission fundamentally damaged that trust in lawyers. While we know that most lawyers in Victoria do the right thing, the actions of Nicola Gobbo were damaging to how at least some people thought about lawyers.
Over the last few years we have worked closely with the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Bar, Victoria Legal Aid, Legal Practitioners' Liability Committee, Victoria Law Foundation and the Federation of Community Legal Centres to develop a public education campaign to address this recommendation.
Working with our stakeholder partners, we designed a campaign that aims to improve consumer confidence in the legal profession and equip consumers to better understand their rights and their lawyer’s obligations. The ‘Your Right to Ask’ campaign gives consumers tools to help them ask questions of their lawyer, so they can better understand complex legal processes and obligations. It’s designed to educate clients and the public on a lawyer’s ethical duties and obligations, particularly in relation to confidentiality, conflict of interest and legal professional privilege.
It also informs people about where they can seek help or advice regarding concerns they may have about their lawyer, directing them to our website to find out more about the regulator’s role.
The campaign is running in press, radio, digital and social media until the end of June. You can watch the campaign video here and visit www.yourrighttoask.vic.gov.au to see the supporting content.
We encourage you to have ‘Your Right to Ask’ conversations with your clients. By creating an environment where your clients are empowered to ask questions, they will better understand the process and your obligations, building a trusted relationship.
Designing for better customer experience
In 2022 we embarked on a project to understand the barriers to delivering efficient and effective services to the community and to lawyers. Using human-centred design, we looked at how our complaints processes could be improved to provide a better, more consistent experience.
Work to implement these changes is now underway, starting with improving how we intake, triage and allocate complaints. This work is closely aligned to our digital transformation strategy and we are working towards building technology and processes that are streamlined, faster and more accessible.
As we undertake this project we want to hear from you to help us ensure the changes we’re making will meet your needs. If you’d like to be contacted to take part in user research, such as focus groups, online surveys or one-on-one interviews, please send an email to us at email@example.com. Please include:
- your name, email address, suburb and phone number
- the type of practicing certificate you have (principal, employee, corporate, etc)
- what type of research you’d be interested in being part of: focus groups, online surveys or one-on-one interviews, or all three.
We will contact people as we need input. Depending on the type of research you may be compensated for your time.
Like many organisations that are using legacy technology, change won’t happen quickly. However, we’re committed to improving the experience people have with us and delivering our services as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Find legal answers to everyday problems at Victorian Law Week
Victorian Law Week is a program of more than 150 events to help people find legal answers to everyday problems, get legal help and learn more about the law.
The annual program of in-person and online events takes place across Victoria, with experts in community and legal assistance available to help people identify where the law can help in everyday life.
Victorian Law Week is also an opportunity to explore Victoria's legal system and discover more about how the law works.
Whether it’s a webinar to help navigate a problem with your home, an in-person session to help solve a family issue, a discussion on workplace discrimination or a tour of the local court, there’s bound to be an event that could help you.
Victorian Law Week runs this week (15 – 21 May 2023).
Visit viclawweek.org.au to view the program and register to attend events.
Events and activities are run by a range of legal, community and government organisations with the program managed by Victoria Law Foundation.
Law Week at the Law Library
Join Law Library Victoria’s Law Week webinars and tours. These events cover the basics of legal resources, highlight key Library services, and provide an opportunity to tour the magnificent Supreme Court Library and learn about its history. This is free and open to lawyers and the public.
Reserve your place, and check out other events and CPD webinars on the Law Library website.
LIV membership renewal
LIV membership renewals are now open for 2023/24. LIV membership provides you with resources, services and support, and assists the LIV to advocate for the community on rule of law and access to and administration of justice issues. You can renew online by logging into your My LIV Dashboard at liv.asn.au using your member ID, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (03) 9607 9470, Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm.
Not an LIV member?
If you are not a member, you can find out more about LIV membership here.
Nominations open for LIV Awards
Nominations are open until 31 May for LIV Honorary Life Membership, the LIV Distinguished Service Award and the LIV President's Award for Outstanding Service. If you know a practitioner who should be recognised, please visit the LIV website for information about how to nominate.
LPLC’s Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance Portal open
The LPLC Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance portal is open for processing renewals for private law practices.
Those responsible for renewing their law practice PI insurance will have received their email advice to renew. If you are one of those and you haven’t yet received an email from LPLC, please check your spam, and if not received please contact LPLC via email@example.com
Remember your new Practising Certificate cannot be issued without current PI Insurance through LPLC.
Free cybersecurity course for LPLC insured practices
Cybercrime is an ever-increasing risk for law firms of all sizes. Having strategies in place to boost a firm’s cybersecurity, including up-to-date training for staff, is now an essential part of practice management.
For a limited time, LPLC is providing all law practices insured with LPLC access to a newly revised, FREE online cyber security course. This training is a must for all lawyers but should also be completed by everyone in the practice, including support staff.
Lawyers who complete the course qualify for 1 CPD point in Practice Management & Business Skills and a certificate of completion is provided. Find out more and apply for access via the LPLC website.