There has been a 4.1% increase in the number of lawyers in Queensland – with the state’s peak regulator recording a total of 15,792 people legally certified to practise law.
The Legal Services Commission Queensland (LSC) – in its 2021-22 annual report tabled in Parliament on Friday (4 Nov) – reveals solicitors make up more than 92% (14,631) of law practitioners in Queensland, with the remaining almost 7% (1161) certified to practise as barristers.
LSC Commissioner Megan Mahon, in her report overview, said the focus throughout the last financial year had been on reforming the commission to ensure it was an “effective, efficient and modern regulator”.
“The steady return to a sense of normality following the (COVID-19) pandemic has meant this year has been one full of opportunity,” Ms Mahon said.
“I have … been able to start making the changes required to have a more meaningful impact on the regulation of the legal profession in Queensland.
“My focus throughout 2021-22 has been reforming the Commission, to ensure it is an effective, efficient, and modern regulator.”
A snapshot of the profession contained in the report shows of the almost 15,800 certified practitioners – 52.13% (8232) identify as female, 47.82% (7552) as male and 0.05% (8) as ‘gender unspecified’.
The profession was made up of 2529 solicitor law practices – 867 of those made up of sole practitioners or partnerships, 1648 as incorporated legal practices and 14 as multi-disciplinary practices.
The report does not include legal officers employed by the Queensland Government who are not required to hold a practising certificate.
The LSC was established by the Queensland Government in 2004 as an independent statutory body and continues to operate under the Legal Profession Act 2007 (the Act).
In Queensland, the LSC has the sole authority to bring disciplinary proceedings against lawyers and law practice staff.
“Regulating the legal profession is an important task that safeguards consumers of legal services and ensures that legal practitioners and their employees are operating to the ethical standards that colleagues and the public would expect of members of the profession,” Ms Mahon said.
“It is important to remember that most legal practitioners act with integrity and honour. It is only for a small number of the profession, and other unqualified individuals that the Commission must investigate and pursue disciplinary or other enforcement action.”
During the reporting period, the LSC executed disciplinary proceedings against 17 practitioners — with one or more prosecutorial charges of misconduct proven in 12 instances.
The disciplinary action – which resulted in five practitioners being struck off and nine added to the discipline register – ranged from ethical matters (six), personal conduct of quality service (five) and one regarding compliance.
“There are occasionally circumstances where a legal practitioners (sic) may be found to have engaged in conduct so serious that orders are made resulting in the practitioner’s name being removed or ‘struck’ from the local roll in Queensland, or the recommendation made for their name to be removed from an interstate roll.
“During the last reporting period orders were made for five lawyers to be removed from the local roll. This is two less than the previous … year.
“The Commission (also) maintains a public register of disciplinary action against lawyers as required by the Act.
“The purpose of the Register is to provide public access to the names of legal practitioners whose conduct has been found to be a more serious level of conduct, being professional misconduct.
“In accordance with the Act, disciplinary findings of the lesser categorisation of unsatisfactory professional conduct are currently not entered in the Register.
“However, as all orders of the (Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal) and the (Legal Practice Committee) are required by the Act to be filed with the Supreme Court, the outcome of all disciplinary proceedings become a matter of public record and are freely searchable, unless subject to a non-publication order.
“There were nine entries made to the Discipline Register during the reporting period.”