The legal profession legislation requires that applicants for and holders of practising certificates must disclose certain matters to the Law Society. This page provides information about matters which solicitors must disclose to the Society and when disclosure must be made. In the case of automatic show cause events, the disclosure obligation also applies to applicants for the grant of a practising certificate.
The Society expects you to be aware of the legislative framework that applies to solicitors in NSW and encourages you to familiarise yourself with the relevant provisions of the Legal Profession Uniform Law and the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015.
Within seven days of being charged with a serious offence, or a tax offence, you must notify the Law Society in writing (s 51 Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW)). You may notify the Society using this form. You will be asked to provide certain documents to the Society including your Court Attendance Notice and Facts Sheet if available.
The term "serious offence" is defined in s 6 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) and means;
- an indictable offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or Territory (whether or not the offence is or may be dealt with summarily); or
- an offence against the law of a foreign country that would be an indictable offence against a law of the Commonwealth, a State or Territory if committed in Australia (whether or not the offence could be dealt with summarily if committed in Australia).
The conviction for a serious offence or a tax offence is an automatic show cause event and the provisions in Part 3.5 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) apply (see below).
The conviction for a prescribed summary offence must also be notified to the Law Society within seven days (s 51 Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW)). Rule 15(2) of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015 prescribes all summary offences for the purpose of s 51 the Legal Profession Uniform Law. There are a limited number of summary offences that are excluded from the general rule (see Rule 15(3)). You may notify the Society using this form.
You must also disclose convictions in foreign countries at the time you apply for grant or renewal of your practising certificate under the provisions of Rule 13 (1) of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015 (see below).
Importantly, you may still be required to notify the Society even if your matter is dismissed under s 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 or under s 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990. This is because the term "conviction" is defined in s 6 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) to include a finding of guilt, or the acceptance of a guilty plea by the court, whether or not a conviction is recorded.
If you lodge an appeal in relation to your conviction, this does not alter your obligation to notify the Law Society Council of the matter, to comply with the conditions of your practising certificate as set out in s 51 Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) and your obligations in relation to a show cause event (set out below).
Automatic show cause events
If you are applying for the grant or renewal of a practising certificate and an automatic show cause event has occurred at any time you must, as part of your application, provide a statement about the show cause event setting out the facts and circumstances of the event and explain why, despite the show cause event, you consider yourself to be a fit and proper person to hold a practising certificate. If the event occurred prior to your admission as an Australian lawyer, you should inform the Society whether you disclosed the matter to the relevant admission authority.
If you currently hold a practising certificate, you must, within seven days of the occurrence of an automatic show cause event notify the Law Society Council in writing. In the case of a bankruptcy event, you must also complete the standard bankruptcy undertaking. Within 28 days of the event, you must provide a written statement setting out the facts and circumstances of the event and explain why, despite the show cause event, you consider yourself to be a fit and proper person to hold a certificate.
An “automatic show cause event” is any of the following:
- a bankruptcy-related event;
- a conviction for a serious offence or a tax offence, whether or not
- the offence was committed while you were engaging in legal practice as an Australian legal practitioner or were practising foreign law as an Australian-registered foreign lawyer; or
- other persons are prohibited from disclosing the identity of the offender.
(See s 86 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law)
A "bankruptcy-related event" is any of the following:
- his or her becoming bankrupt under the Bankruptcy Act (or the corresponding provisions of the law of a foreign country or external territory); or
- his or her being served with a notice of a creditor's petition presented to a court under s 43 of the Bankruptcy Act; or
- his or her presentation (as a debtor) of a declaration to the Official Receiver under s 54A of the Bankruptcy Act of his or her intention to present a debtor's petition or his or her presentation (as a debtor) of such petition under s 55 of that Act; or
- his or her applying to take the benefit of any law (whether Australian or otherwise) for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounding with his or her creditors or making an assignment of his or her remuneration for their benefit.
A “tax offence" is any offence under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 of the Commonwealth.
(See s 6 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law)
If you become the subject of disciplinary proceedings as a lawyer in a foreign country, you must notify the Law Society in writing within seven days (s 51 Legal Profession Uniform Law).
If you become the subject of disciplinary proceedings within Australia, or a foreign country, in any occupation, this is something that must be disclosed at the time you apply for grant or renewal of your practising certificate (see below).
Fitness to Practise – Rule 13
When applying for an Australian practising certificate in NSW, applicants must address each of the matters referred to in rule 13 (1) of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015 in considering whether or not they are a fit and proper person to hold an Australian practising certificate. You should familiarise yourself with Rule 13 before commencing your application. Although Rule 13 is a broad disclosure provision, unnecessary disclosure of matters which would not reasonably affect your fitness is discouraged.
In particular, you must disclose:
- Whether you have been the director of any company, including an incorporated legal practice, while the company was insolvent (Rule 13(b)).
- If you have become the subject of disciplinary proceedings within Australia, or a foreign country, in any occupation. This includes where proceedings have been brought by the Law Society or Legal Services Commissioner.
- If you are the subject of an unresolved complaint or investigation about your conduct as an Australian lawyer within Australia or under a corresponding foreign law.
- Whether you have been removed from the roll of any Australian jurisdiction or foreign roll of lawyers.
- Whether you have failed to comply with a requirement of an Australian law in relation to professional indemnity insurance.
How to notify the Law Society
To notify the Law Society of a charge, conviction or an 'automatic show cause event' please complete the relevant form:
If you are an applicant for a practising certificate, you should lodge your Statement of an ‘Automatic Show Cause Event’ form with your application for a practising certificate. In relation to all other notifications, you should send your completed form, together with any relevant documentation specified in the form, to the Society's Professional Standards Department.
Disclosure pursuant to Rule 13 should be made at the time you apply for renewal or grant of your practising certificate with your application form.
In relation to any other matter, including foreign disciplinary proceedings, you should advise the Professional Standards Department in writing.
What happens if notification is not provided?
If you become aware that you have not disclosed a required matter to the Society, you should notify the Law Society, via the Professional Standards Department as soon as possible.
Failure to disclose a matter required to be disclosed under the Legal Profession Uniform Law is a breach of that Act which may constitute professional misconduct or unsatisfactory professional conduct. In some cases failure to disclose a matter may lead to refusal to grant you a practising certificate, or cancellation or suspension of your practising certificate.
What happens after notification?
The Law Society Council will investigate the matter to determine whether or not you are a fit and proper person to hold an Australian practising certificate and whether any discretionary conditions need to be imposed on your practise.
Please contact the Professional Standards Department on (02) 9926 0110 for further information or assistance.