Many laws govern the legal profession and the practise of law in NSW, such as the Legal Profession Act 2004 and the Legal Profession Regulation 2005.
Under these laws, the Law Society of NSW, the Legal Profession Admission Board and the Supreme Court of NSW have the responsibility of ensuring only appropriately qualified people provide legal advice and representation.
The Law Society’s role in this vital function focuses on the issue and enforcement of solicitors’ practising certificates.
What is a practising certificate?
A practising certificate is basically a licence which allows a solicitor to provide legal services. All solicitors who currently practise the law in NSW must hold a practising certificate.
Why are practising certificates so important?
You can be sure solicitors with practising certificates are fully qualified to provide legal services. It means they have:
- satisfied both academic and Practical Legal Training requirements
- been admitted to the profession by the Supreme Court of NSW or admitted in another Australian state or territory
- committed to the continual update of their skills and knowledge
- agreed to comply with a range of laws that govern professional standards in the legal profession.
Is your solicitor’s practising certificate current?
Solicitors must renew their practising certificates every year and must meet strict requirements to do so. Solicitors who have failed to abide by their professional obligations can have their practising certificate cancelled, suspended or revoked.
Where can I find solicitors with current practising certificates?
A list of solicitors who hold practising certificates issued by the Law Society of NSW can be accessed through the Find a lawyer section of this website.
What if the person offering legal advice does not have a current practising certificate?
Except in limited circumstances, it is illegal under the Legal Profession Act 2004 for people to engage in legal practice, or hold out that they are entitled to do so, without holding a current Practising Certificate. Such people are called unqualified practitioners. They are generally unaccountable for their actions leaving you with few options for recourse if something goes wrong.
To provide legal services to the public a solicitor must hold a current and appropriate type of practising certificate, be covered by professional indemnity insurance, comply with cost disclosure rules and contribute to the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund, if required.
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
The Law Society of New South Wales
170 Phillip Street
Sydney NSW 2000
What remedies are available?
There are two remedies available against unqualified practitioners:
- Summary proceedings before a magistrate within 12 months after the date of the alleged offence.
- Proceedings in the Supreme Court, seeking an injunction restraining the person from providing legal advice.