Unqualified practice of the law is prohibited by sections 14 and 15 of the Legal Profession Act 2004 because it exposes the public to great risks, including poor legal advice and representation, deception and no recourse to assistance should something go wrong.
Unqualified practice also damages the reputation of the profession and is unfair for solicitors who comply with all financial and ethical obligations.
Who is an unqualified practitioner?
Unqualified practitioners are persons who engage in legal practice, or hold out that they are entitled to do so, when they are not the holders of a current solicitor’s Practising Certificate.
What are the penalties?
Heavy penalties can be imposed upon persons who breach sections 14 and 15 of the Legal Profession Act 2004, including a maximum penalty of 200 units.
Who is a disqualified person?
A person is considered to be a ‘disqualified person’ under the Legal Profession Act 2004 if:
- their name has been removed from the Australian Roll of Lawyers
- their Practising Certificate has been suspended or cancelled , or its renewal has been refused
- they are the subject of an order prohibiting them from working for, or in, a law practice, managing an incorporated legal practice, or being a partner in a multi-disciplinary partnership.
Can a firm employ a disqualified practitioner?
Under section 17 of the Legal Profession Act 2004, unless appropriate approval is obtained, a law practice must not knowingly employ:
- a lay associate who is a disqualified person
- a person convicted of a serious offence.
In the case of a disqualified person who is an associate of a solicitor, the Law Society Council is the relevant authority for approval.
It is a criminal offence by the lay associate and may be unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct on the part of the principal or legal practitioner associate of the law practice if they are aware of the employee’s offence or disqualification.
Contravention of this section can carry heavy penalties.
How to report unqualified practitioners
The Law Society’s Find a Lawyer facility holds a list of all solicitors in New South Wales who hold Practising Certificates.
If you believe that any person is conducting a legal practice or performing legal work without holding a Practising Certificate, information setting out your concern should be provided, in writing, to:
Professional Standards Department
Law Society of New South Wales
170 Phillip Street
Sydney NSW 2000
What are the remedies available against unqualified practitioners?
There are two remedies for breaches of sections 14 and 15 of the Legal Profession Act 2004:
- Summary proceedings before a magistrate which must be commenced within 12 months after the date of the alleged offence, or
- Proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW, seeking an injunction restraining a person from contravening Part 2.2.
- Professional Standards Department
- Law Society of NSW
- 170 Phillip Street
- Sydney NSW 2000
- DX 362 Sydney
- T: (02) 9926 0390
- F: (02) 9221 5804
- E: email@example.com