The Executive Committee of the Council of the Queensland Law Society continues its important work in making regulatory decisions, bearing in mind always the need to protect the public, including by upholding the standards of the profession.
The Executive Committee has recently published further information about its procedures on the QLS website.
Last quarter, this update reminded practitioners of their obligations regarding:
- directorship of ILPs
- external examination of trust accounts
- disclosure of suitability matters, show cause events etc.
- professional indemnity insurance, and
- timely and courteous communications with the Society.
Several of those themes have remained at the forefront in the committee’s recent reflections.
Disclosure, remorse and insight
The Executive Committee has considered a number of matters where practitioners have failed to disclose events which should have been notified to the Society either shortly after they occurred or when applying for renewal of a practising certificate.
Practitioners should ensure that they are aware of their disclosure obligations under the Legal Profession Act 2007 (the Act) and comply with them promptly.
If, after a disclosure or otherwise, practitioners find themselves needing to make submissions to the Society relating to whether they are a fit and proper person, the committee will be looking for indications that the practitioner truly understands the gravity of their conduct.
The committee assesses fitness at the present time rather than the time of the conduct. Prompt disclosure, together with demonstrations of insight and rehabilitation can provide comfort that the conduct is unlikely to be repeated.
In addition to decisions about fitness to hold practising certificates, the Executive Committee makes decisions regarding external interventions into law practices, such as appointing supervisors of trust money or receivers for the law practice, under Chapter 5 of the Act.
There are a number of reasons why external intervention may be warranted, including where the principal of the law practice ceases to be an Australian legal practitioner due to expiry or cancellation of their practising certificate.
Principals of practices which may become subject to external intervention are provided with a copy of the Regulation division’s submission to the Executive Committee and have the chance to respond.
Recipients of such submissions should bear in mind that whether external intervention is warranted is assessed by reference to criteria in the Act. It is not an opportunity to reopen whether a practising certificate should have been amended, suspended or cancelled.
Communications with QLS staff
The committee has become aware of a number of examples of practitioners behaving in a less than civil manner towards Society staff. Civility is of course expected in all of a practitioner’s professional dealings, as discussed by Justice Philip McMurdo in ‘Civility and Professional Courtesy’.
While being involved in a regulation matter may be stressful, there is no excuse for aggressive or abusive behaviour. As mentioned in the last Notes from the Executive, a practitioner’s manner of dealing with the Society and the broader legal profession can itself be relevant to the committee’s consideration of the person’s fitness to hold a practising certificate.
If, at the end of a regulation matter, a person is unhappy with the decision, there are rights of review contained in the Act that can be pursued. Neither Society staff nor the committee are able to alter decisions that have already been made.
Financial year in review
As the financial year has drawn to a close, we reflect on the types of matters and work of the committee over the past financial year. This year has seen:
- the committee consider and prepare correspondence for 50 matters
- of those matters:
- 60% related to show cause notices
- 18% related to applications for a grant or renewal of a practising certificate
- 10% related to lay associate applications, and
- 12% other matters.
The demographic of practitioners in these matters has been:
- 75% male
- 25% female
- Average age 51 years, and
- Average PAE 22 years.
We will continue to publish quarterly updates to inform the membership of the work of the committee.
1 Such as show cause events (see section 68 of the Act and the definition of ‘show cause event’ in schedule 2), being charged with a serious offence or being convicted of an offence that would have to be disclosed under the admission rules for an application for admission (see section 57 of the Act).
2 Speech delivered at Queensland Law Society Symposium 2014, Brisbane, 21 March 2014.