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Practice Management

​​​Background

The Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) working collaboratively with the Law Society of NSW, LawCover and the College of Law, has identified a set of 10 objectives covering the areas that are considered to be fundamental to ensure compliance with the Uniform Law, the Uniform Rules and other professional obligations.   

The objectives include:

  1. Negligence - (providing for competent work practices)
  2. Communication (providing for effective, timely and courteous communication)
  3. Delay  (providing for timely review, delivery and follow up of legal services)
  4. Liens/file transfers (providing for timely resolution of document/file transfers)
  5. Cost disclosure/billing practices/termination of retainer (providing for shared understanding and appropriate documentation on commencement and termination of retainer as well as appropriate billing practices during the retainer)
  6. Conflict of interests (providing for timely identification and resolution of conflict of interests, including when acting for both parties or acting against previous clients as well as potential conflicts which may arise in relationships with debt collectors and mercantile agencies, or conducting another business, referral fees and commissions etc)
  7. Records management (minimising the likelihood of loss or destruction of correspondence and documents through appropriate document retention, filing, archiving etc and providing for compliance with requirements regarding registers of files, safe custody, financial interests)
  8. Undertakings (providing for undertakings to be given, monitoring of compliance and timely compliance with notices, orders, rulings, directions or other requirements of regulatory authorities such as the OLSC, courts, costs assessors)
  9. Supervision of practice and staff (providing for compliance with statutory obligations covering licence and practising certificate conditions, employment of persons and providing for proper quality assurance of work outputs and performance of legal, paralegal and non-legal staff involved in the delivery of legal services)
  10. Trust account requirements (providing for compliance with Part 4 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law and proper accounting procedures)

​Compliance Audits

The objectives listed above form a framework for identifying whether there are reasonable grounds to conduct a compliance audit of a law practice.

Where a specific complaint or series of complaints raise concerns about the conduct of a law practice or its employees and those concerns relate to compliance with the Uniform Law or the Uniform Rules, a compliance audit may take place.

Our compliance audit page has more information about compliance audits​.

At the conclusion of the audit process an audit report will be prepared with recommendations.  On occasion, management system directions may also be made.

Management system directions

Where the Commissioner considers it reasonable to do so, he may issue a management system direction requiring the implementation and maintenance of appropriate management systems to enable the provision of legal services in accordance with the Uniform Law and Uniform Rules.  For example, a management system direction may require a law practice to develop an efficient system to provide regular updates regarding costs disclosure or to provide accurate itemised bills at the client's request.  Another example may be a direction to a law practice to develop a system to supervise employees who are engaged in delivering legal services.

A law practice must comply with a management system direction and may be required to report regularly to the Commissioner on its ongoing maintenance.

Incorporated Legal Practices

Pursuant to the transitional provisions under Schedule 4 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (LPUL) entities that were incorporated legal practices under the Legal Profession Act 2004 (the old legislation) continue to operate as incorporated legal practices.  The same is true of multi-disciplinary partnerships. ​(See cl.14)​​​​

There continues to be an obligation on incorporated legal practices to give notice to the Law Society if they intend to engage in legal practice in New South Wales.  Similar notification must be provided if the incorporated legal practice intends to cease engaging in legal practice.  That notice must comply with the time period set​ out in the Uniform Rules i.e. at least 14 days before engaging in legal practice and within 14 days of ceasing to engage in legal practice. (Rule 29)

An incorporated legal practice must have at least one ​authorised principal i.e. a principal authorised to supervise the work of others.

An important change under LPUL is that incorporated legal practices are now no longer identified as a class of law practice that must demonstrate the implementation of appropriate management systems.  The concept of appropriate management systems still exists under s.257 of LPUL in the context of management system directions.  However this section applies to all law practices in general and not just to incorporated legal practices.  As the self-assessment process was developed to assis​t incorporated legal practices to demonstrate that they had implemented appropriate management systems under the old legislation, the requirement for authorised principals​​​ to complete the self-assessment process under LPUL is removed.