Practising while in government or public employment
While the Legal Profession Act 2004 (Vic) (“the Act”) generally prohibits a person from engaging in legal practice without a practising certificate, this prohibition does not apply to a person doing so in the course of their employment with the Crown or a public authority, or performing duties under an appointment by the Governor in Council.
Accordingly, if you are a “government lawyer” employed by the Crown or a public authority, you are not required to hold a practising certificate to practise in that capacity in Victoria.
Please note that the government lawyer exclusion only applies in the course of your employment. If you also wish to practise outside of the course of your employment, you will be required to hold a principal practising certificate and appropriate registration to authorise that practice (subject to the below requirements for engaging in pro-bono work).
Maintaining a practising certificate
Although not required to, a government lawyer may choose to maintain a practising certificate. A government lawyer who maintains a Victorian practising certificate is a “local legal practitioner” within the meaning of the Act. As such, they are bound by the Act, the regulations and legal profession rules including the Continuing Professional Development Rules 2008 and the Professional Conduct and Practice Rules 2005.
If you practise solely in-house, i.e. offering legal services solely to and for the purposes of your employer, you may wish to maintain a practising certificate authorising legal practice as a ‘corporate legal practitioner’. See further information about corporate legal practitioners.
A person may engage in legal practice as a volunteer at a community legal centre on any “type” of practising certificate. For example, if you hold a corporate practising certificate, you may nonetheless engage in legal practice as a volunteer at a community legal centre.
Lawyers who work in government without a practising certificate, but wish to engage in legal practice as a volunteer at a community legal centre, may seek “volunteer” practising certificates which authorise legal practice only as a volunteer at a community legal centre. There is no fee for a volunteer practising certificate.
If you wish to provide pro-bono legal services to a person or body other than a community legal centre, you may be required to hold a principal practising certificate unless you hold a corporate practising certificate. If you wish to provide such services you must be covered by professional indemnity insurance on terms and conditions approved by the Board.