In a first for Queensland, the Legal Services Commissioner has successfully prosecuted a company which advertised that it was a law firm entitled to practise law.
Business partners Wade Collins and Joshua Neilson, and their company Collins Neilson Pty Ltd, were found guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today of representing that Collins Neilson Pty Ltd was an incorporated legal practice, when it was not.
The Legal Services Commissioner prosecuted the company after an investigation revealed the partners advertised on their company website representations that the company was the provider of legal services.
Under the name of the company, a director also corresponded with a third party giving the impression that they were providers of legal services and operating as a law practice.
The registered company had not provided notice to the Queensland Law Society of its intention to engage in legal practice and was therefore not entitled to provide legal services nor represent that it could. The partners (who were both directors of the company) did not hold any legal qualifications.
The successful conviction was the first prosecution of a company by the Legal Services Commission.
Legal Services Commissioner Megan Mahon said bringing the action against the company reinforced the need for companies to follow the requirements of the Legal Profession Act, including having at least one legally qualified director.
“Members of the public are entitled to presume that they are receiving legal advice from those qualified and licensed to do so,” Commissioner Mahon said.
“This is especially important given the complex nature of the law and the legal system, and the potentially severe and far reaching consequences a legal outcome may have.
“The strict requirements placed on engaging in legal practice are there to protect the public from the danger unlawful operators pose, and to ensure the professional standards of the legal profession are met.
“As the Legal Services Commissioner I am committed to safeguarding the public from those purporting to practise law when not qualified or authorised to do so, and I will not hesitate to take action where necessary.”
The company and the two directors were each fined $1500, and all ordered to pay the costs of the commissioner. No convictions were recorded.