Supervised

legal practice

The requirement

Section 49(1) of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW)(Uniform Law) imposes a statutory condition on a practising certificate issued by the Law Society's Council requiring the holder to, in this jurisdiction, engage in supervised legal practice only, until the holder has completed the period of supervised legal practice required.

Required period of supervised legal practice

For most practitioners, the required period of supervised legal practice is 24 months full-time practice or the equivalent worked out on a part-time basis. This relates to those practitioners who completed a practical legal training course to qualify for admission to the Australian legal profession. Otherwise, if you completed practical legal training principally under an approved training plan supervised by an Australian lawyer (e.g. a period of Articles) to qualify for admission, a period or periods of supervised legal practice equivalent to 18 months full-time practice must be completed. Note that even if you have completed the required period, the condition will remain until you make a successful application to have the condition removed.

Who is authorised to supervise?

Section 6 of the Uniform Law defines “supervised legal practice” as follows:

supervised legal practice means legal practice by a person who is an Australian legal practitioner--

(a) as an employee of, or other person working under supervision in, a law practice, where--

(i) at least one legal practitioner associate of the law practice is an authorised principal; and

(ii) the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of an authorised principal referred to in subparagraph (i); or

(b) as a principal of a law practice (other than a community legal service), where the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of an authorised principal of the law practice; or

(c) as a corporate legal practitioner or government legal practitioner, where the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of a person who holds, or is eligible to hold but is exempted from holding, an Australian practising certificate authorising the holder to supervise legal practice by others; or

(d) in a capacity or in circumstances specified in the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015 for the purposes of this definition;

The above definition makes it clear that as a minimum, the supervisor must hold a practising certificate which enables him/her to supervise legal practice of others. A practitioner cannot supervise legal practice of others if his/her practising certificate is subject to condition 2 (supervised legal practice) or a discretionary condition prohibiting supervision of others.

Rule 7 of the Uniform Rules provides guidance for law practice employees who are placed on secondment.

What is the standard of supervision required?

Rule 37 of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015 provides

‘[a] solicitor with designated responsibility for a matter must exercise reasonable supervision over solicitors and all other employees engaged in the provision of the legal services for that matter.'

The legal profession legislation does not define ‘reasonable supervision’ and much will depend on the particular circumstances.

 In Legal Services Commissioner v Michael Vincent Baker [2005] LPT 002 at [42] it was held:

 “A practitioner should properly supervise all legal professional work carried out on their behalf. Vicarious liability aside, a practitioner’s legal and fiduciary duties to a client are not avoided or reduced by delivering that client into the care of an employee, whether or not that employee is legally qualified. The supervision required however varies according to the employee’s experience, qualifications and role and with the type and complexity of the work”.

It is suggested that a reasonable step to take is to have in place strong compliance management systems, guidelines and tools appropriate for the particular practice. Effective management systems facilitate consistent standards of supervision to ensure clients do not receive legal services sub-standard to that which they would receive if the principal him or herself had carriage of the matter. 

Must all of my period of supervised legal practice be undertaken at the same law practice/same place of employment?

There is no requirement in the legal profession legislation that you must undertake the required period of supervised legal practice with the same employer/supervisor. The supervised legal practice can be completed by:

(a) one period of supervised legal practice, worked on a full-time basis, that is equal to the required period worked out on a full-time basis; or

(b) one period of supervised legal practice, worked on a part-time basis, that is equivalent to the required period worked out on a full-time basis; or

(c) two or more periods of supervised legal practice, worked on either or both of those bases, that together are equal or equivalent to the required period (s 49(2) of the Uniform Law and Rule 14 Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015).

Please note: public holidays during a relevant period are to be included as days of supervised legal practice, whether or not you engaged in legal practice on those days and normal periods of leave taken during a relevant period are to be included as periods of supervised legal practice.

Government and corporate lawyers claiming an exempt period of practice

Clauses 19-22 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Regulation 2015 (NSW), provides transitional arrangements for government and corporate lawyers under the Uniform Law. Please see the factsheet for further details of the arrangements. For many government and corporate lawyers the transitional arrangements expired on 1 July 2017 requiring the lawyer to thereafter hold a practising certificate. Government and corporate lawyers who were practising under the transitional arrangements can claim that period towards the period of supervised legal practice required (see below).

Supervised legal practice

Any period of legal practice engaged in by a government or corporate lawyer prior to 1 July 2015 or pursuant to a transitional exemption, and whether holding a practising certificate or not, is an exempt period of practice. An exempt period of practice will be subtracted from the period of supervised legal practice required under s 49 of the Uniform Law.

Any government or corporate lawyer who wishes to claim an exempt period of practice can obtain the relevant form from the Law Society Registry on  02 9926 0156 or email.

How to remove condition 2 from your practising certificate

When you have completed the required period of supervised legal practice you will remain subject to supervision until such time as you have successfully applied to have condition 2 removed.

Standard applications

If you have completed the required period of supervised legal practice, you may make an application to have this condition removed from your practising certificate. An application must be made by way of a statutory declaration addressing the Supervised legal practice guidelines.

The average turnaround time for 'standard' applications is currently three working weeks.

Non-standard applications

If your application does not satisfy the statutory criteria or there are other issues affecting the application, it will be referred to the Law Society's Licensing Committee for consideration. The Licensing Committee meet on a monthly basis and the lodgement dates and meeting dates can be found in the Supervised legal practice guidelines.

Non-standard applications to the Licensing Committee may be made by way of statutory declaration. Please attach any necessary accompanying documents.

For further information; please see the following LSJ articles:

1. Principals: Why it’s so important to set the right tone

2. Are you supervising as you should? Your staff & your practice depend on it

If you have any queries relating to supervision, please contact the Regulatory Compliance Support Unit on 02 9926 0115 or alternatively the Law Society Registry on 02 9926 0156.