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Corporate Lawyers FAQs

The Corporate Lawyers Committee has provided answers to some common questions asked by corporate lawyers.

1. As a corporate lawyer, how do I comply with the MCLE requirement of 1 unit each per year of

  • practice management and business skills;
  • ethics and professional responsibility; and
  • professional skills?

A handy guide to these requirements and how you can satisfy them is available here.

Course topics which could satisfy the practice management and business skills requirement include outsourcing of legal work, use of technology such as search engines, and accounting.

Topics covering professional skills could include public speaking and management courses.

2. Can I complete my period of restricted practice as a corporate lawyer?

Yes. However, all the usual rules apply to you, including that your supervisor must have an unrestricted NSW practising certificate, and that you must complete all the sections of the application including those relating to trust monies.

Even if you do not handle trust monies, you are required to know about these obligations in order to a hold a practising certificate.

3. When do I need to hold an unrestricted practising certificate?

As a corporate lawyer, you generally do not need to hold an unrestricted practising certificate unless you are the head or sole lawyer for your employer company.

4. Does legal professional privilege apply to advice I provide?

The same rules apply to determine whether advice is privileged regardless of whether you are a corporate lawyer or a lawyer working in a law firm.

However, a corporate lawyer is more likely to act in a number of different capacities in their employer company, such as company secretary, director or business manager.

If you give advice in one of these other capacities, then privilege will not apply. Also, some corporate lawyers do not hold current practising certificates.

Privilege may not apply in that situation. A helpful summary of relevant cases can be found on the Law Council's website.

5. How can I do pro bono work?

Although many corporate lawyers may not think they have appropriate expertise to do pro bono work, there are many opportunities. For instance, charitable organisations are often run just like companies and need the same types of advice as typical corporate lawyer employers.

The main practical restriction on doing pro bono work is ensuring that you have the correct practising certificate and insurance. If you volunteer with a legal centre, then just ask the centre and they will make sure you are covered.

The Law Society's Pro Bono Scheme unites firms willing to provide pro bono assistance for disadvantaged members of the community in need of legal services. For more information about how to get involved visit the Pro Bono Scheme page.

Alternatively, if you have your own pro bono project, then contact the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. The Centre offers free PI insurance to projects they approve and which are supervised by a lawyer with an unrestricted principal's practising certificate. Further information is available here.

6. How will the National Conduct Rules affect me?

The proposed National Conduct Rules are part of the harmonisation of legal practice across the states and territories of Australia. Like the current Solicitors' Rules, they will set out the main professional obligations of solicitors.

The consultation draft setting out the proposed rules is available here.

7. Where can I obtain advice if I am facing a difficult ethical issue?

The Law Society provides a free service to all solicitors who need advice on professional ethical issues. Further information with contact details can be found here.

8. Is there any tertiary training available specifically for corporate lawyers?

Yes. ACLA and the College of Law have developed the Master of Applied Law (In-house Practice), which is designed to provide practical training for the unique aspects of the role of the corporate lawyer. Further details are available on the College of Law website.

9.  Can corporate lawyers participate in committees of the Law Council of Australia?

Yes. Corporate lawyers are eligible to participate in committees of the Law Council of Australia.

The Law Council is made up of 17 constituent bodies which are the State and Territory law societies, Bar associations and the Large Law Firm Group. The Law Society of NSW is the largest constituent body. There are a number of Law Council committees and working groups, members of which are normally nominated by the constituent bodies. 

The Law Council also has five specialist Sections (including Business Law and International Law) which corporate lawyers can join. Those Sections have a number of committees which members of a Section can apply to join. 

Further details are available on the Law Council website, www.lawcouncil.asn.au.