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Setting up a law practice

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Setting up a new law practice

In Victoria there are several different types of law practices. While they must all abide by the same legal profession rules and regulations, some must take further steps to meet our requirements. Some of these steps must be done before the practice can open for business.

If you’re looking to set up your own sole practice, you must hold a principal practising certificate. If you have not held this type of certificate before, you must first show us you have the skills and experience needed to run a law practice before we will grant you a principal certificate. See our New principals page for further information.

In order to register a law practice in Victoria, you must undertake the following steps:

  1. Satisfy the Principal Practising Certificate Policy
  2. Complete and return the relevant registration form via the Lawyer Enquiry Form. You can find out more information about the various law practice structures below
  3. Upon confirmation of registration of the entity, you will be issued with an entity ID
  4. Provide the entity ID to the Legal Practitioners Liability Committee (LPLC) in order to obtain a certificate of Insurance (COI)
  5. Once the COI has been issued by the LPLC, you must provide us with a copy via the Lawyer Enquiry Form to complete the registration process.

Note if you are an interstate entity seeking to be registered in Victoria, please include your current COI to accompany the registration form.

Sole practitioners

A sole practitioner is a principal lawyer who runs their own law practice. They may employ other lawyers and non-lawyer staff, but they are solely responsible for the operations of the practice itself.

Setting up a sole practice

You must also let us know at least 14 days before you commence legal work in your own sole practice.  We also ask you to let us know of any changes to your firm’s details (such as address, contact numbers etc) within 14 days. You can update your entity details by completing this form and submitting it via the Lawyer Enquiry Form.

Sole practitioners should also consider setting up a practice contingency plan to protect their business if they are unable to work for an extended period of time.

Law firms

A law firm is a legal practice that has two or more partners who are Australian legal practitioners that hold, or are eligible to hold, a principal practising certificate. Alternatively, a law firm may include at least one partner who must hold an Australian practising certificate, as well as an Australian-registered foreign lawyer.

Setting up a law firm

If you’re setting up a new law firm, you must tell us at least 14 days before your new law firm commences practising.

You must also give us 14 days' notice if:

  • there is any change to the information that we have about your firm; or 
  • you intend to end your legal practice in Victoria.

You can do this by completing one of these forms:

Incorporated legal practices

An incorporated legal practice (or ILP) is a company that can provide legal services alongside non-legal services such as accounting, financial planning, mortgage brokering and others. 

ILPs are registered as a company under commonwealth corporations law, and are controlled by a Board of Directors. An ILP must have at least one legal director who holds a principal practising certificate. The legal director is ultimately responsible and liable for any misconduct by the ILP’s legal division.

Setting up an ILP

The legal director must ensure that the new ILP holds a professional indemnity insurance policy that covers it for the type of legal work it undertakes.

The legal director must also let us know at least 14 days before the ILP starts providing legal services by completing this form.

Similarly, if the ILP has ceased providing legal services, the legal director must also let us know within 14 days by completing this form.

Sole directors of an ILP should also consider setting up a practice contingency plan to protect their practice if they are unable to work for an extended period of time.

Unincorporated legal practices

An unincorporated legal practice (ULP) is another type of business that provides both legal and non-legal services, however it is controlled by the individual partners or directors, not by a Board. As with ILPs, there are some restrictions on the services that ULPs may offer.

Setting up a ULP

Professional indemnity insurance must be obtained by the principal to cover legal work undertaken by the individual lawyers who work for the ULP.

When setting up a ULP, the principal must let us know at least 14 days before the ULP starts providing legal services by completing this form.

Similarly, if the ULP has ceased providing legal services, the principal must also let us know within 14 days by completing this form.

Community legal service

A Community legal service (CLS) is an organisation that provides free or low cost legal services to the community. Some CLSs provide specialist support and advice on a particular issue or to a particular sector of the community. Others provide legal services to people who live and work in a local region.

A CLS must employ one or more supervising lawyers as the principal of the practice. It can be staffed by paid employees and volunteers. Any lawyer can volunteer at a CLS provided they hold a current practising certificate of any type.

Setting up a CLS

A CLS can be either incorporated or unincorporated and the CLS itself must be covered by a professional indemnity insurance policy.

Barristers and barristers’ clerks

Barristers are a type of sole practitioner. They specialise in one or more areas of law, and work independently as advocates and advisors in those areas. Most barristers are members of the Victorian Bar.

Becoming a barrister

If you’re looking to become a barrister, contact the Victorian Bar.

Barristers’ clerks

Most barristers engage a clerk to help them manage their practice, and to receive and handle trust money on their behalf. Barristers’ clerks are approved by the Victorian Bar.

Barrister’s clerks must pay an annual contribution to the fidelity fund, however they do not have to hold a practising certificate.

Some people are prohibited from working for a law practice

Some people have been disqualified by a court or tribunal from working in a law practice. Law practices who want to employ a prohibited person in any capacity must first seek our permission. For more information see our Lay Associates page.

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