Solicitors in NSW work in a variety of structures and these include government departments, community legal services and large corporations. Almost 70 per cent, however still work in private law practice. Sole practitioner firms constitute 59.2 per cent of all private firms.
In addition to sole practitioners, other law practice structures are law firms, community legal services, incorporated legal practices and unincorporated legal practices.
Law firm is defined in section 6 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) (Uniform Law) as:
“ a partnership consisting only of –
(a) Australian legal practitioners; or
(b) One or more Australian legal practitioners and one or more Australian-registered foreign lawyers”.
Sole practitioners and law firms must give notice to the Law Society of their intention to provide legal services. Checklists for commencing a sole practice or a law firm can be accessed here.
Incorporated Legal Practices
An Incorporated Legal Practice (ILP) is defined in section 6 of the Uniform Law as a “corporation” that satisfies certain criteria.
The criteria are as follows:
(a) It is
(i) a company within the meaning of the Corporations Act; or
(ii) a corporation, or a corporation of a kind, approved by the Council under section 114 or specified in the Uniform Rules for the purposes of this definition;
(b) it has given notice under section 104 that it intends to engage in legal practice in Australia and that notice is still operative;
(c) the legal services it provides or proposes to provide are not limited to either or both of the following services
(i) in-house legal services for the corporation or a related entity;
(ii) services that are not legally required to be provided by an Australian legal practitioner and that are provided by an officer or employee who is not an Australian legal practitioner;
(d) it is not excluded by the Uniform Rules from being an incorporated legal practice – but does not include a community legal service.
Before engaging in legal practice
An ILP does not itself hold a practising certificate. Before a corporation may engage in legal practice in NSW as a law practice, it must give the Law Society at least 14 days written notice in the approved form, of its intention to do so.
Section 104(2) of the Uniform Law prohibits an entity from engaging in legal practice as a law practice unless this notice has been given.
Upon Termination of provision of legal services
An ILP must give the Law Society written notice in the approved form within 14 days after it ceases to engage in legal practice.
Further information on incorporated legal practice, and a checklist for commencing an ILP can be found here.
Unincorporated Legal Practices
An Unincorporated Legal Practice (ULP) is a partnership or an unincorporated body or group that satisfies the criteria set out in the definition of "unincorporated legal practice" in s 6 of the Uniform Law.
Similar to an ILP, before a ULP, may engage in legal practice in NSW as a law practice, it must give the Law Society at least 14 days written notice in the approved form, of its intention to do so.
A ULP must also give notice, in the approved form, within 14 days of it ceasing to engage in legal practice.
A Chambers Practice is a group of professionals, usually legal practitioners, in sole or small firm practice, who operate from a named Chambers Practice. A Chambers Practice is not a law practice under the Uniform Law. For the payment of a licence fee each professional has exclusive use of a room in the Chambers Practice and shares certain facilities with others in the group.
For more information about working in a Chambers Practice download the Chambers practice guide.
Community Legal Service
A "community legal service" means an organisation (whether incorporated or not) that--
(a) holds itself out as--
(i) a community legal service; or
(ii) a community legal centre; or
(iii) an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service;
whether or not it is a member of a State or Territory association of community legal centres, and whether or not it is accredited or certified by the National Association of Community Legal Centres; and
(b) is established and operated on a not-for-profit basis; and
(c) provides legal or legal-related services that--
(i) are directed generally to people who are disadvantaged (including but not limited to being financially disadvantaged) in accessing the legal system or in protecting their legal rights; or
(ii) are conducted in the public interest;
Professional indemnity insurance
The Uniform Law requires solicitors to hold or be covered by an approved insurance policy for NSW before they engage in legal practice in NSW.