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Commissioner Update - June 2024

In this issue:

  • Commissioner’s message
  • Risk Outlook 2024
  • Warning on cybercriminals impersonating law practice websites
  • VLSB+C’s first Reconciliation Action Plan
  • New Lawyer Wellbeing Theory of Change project
  • Renew your practising certificate
  • Supervised legal practice survey – have your say
  • VLSB+C customer experience surveys
  • VLA’s pilot Equity and Diversity List
  • New Law Library tours for lawyers
  • News from LPLC, LIV and VLF

Introduction from the Commissioner

As a risk-based regulator, we seek to identify and focus on the risks that can cause the most harm to consumers of legal services and the reputation of the profession, and to regulate in ways that mitigate those risks.

This time last year, we announced our first risk outlook for the legal profession in Victoria, in an effort to be clear and transparent about the regulatory issues we were focusing on in 2023. Many of you have told us you found the risk outlook to be helpful and informative.

While we can’t predict every possible risk to the profession, we can spotlight the risks that we’re most concerned about for the year ahead, and have produced a new risk outlook for this year.

Some of the risks identified last year have carried over to the Risk Outlook 2024.

That’s because cybersecurity breaches, non-compliance with core legislative obligations, unethical practice and inadequate supervision in law practices continue to happen, to the detriment of consumers and the reputation of the profession.

This year we’re also flagging, for the first time, risks associated with the use of AI, and the facilitation by lawyers of money laundering.

The Risk Outlook 2024 is part of our commitment to clearly communicate with you to help you improve the quality of your services to consumers, and to avoid a complaint or investigation. I encourage you to read more about the outlook below and on our website.

The wellbeing of lawyers continues to be a strong focus for us this year. The research is clear – for change to happen, the focus needs to move beyond individual resilience to the system-wide drivers that are having negative impacts on the wellbeing of those who work within the legal system.

This is why we’re launching the Lawyer Wellbeing Theory of Change project – an initiative that will see individuals and organisations across Victoria’s legal system co-design a shared model for system-wide change.

I encourage you to take part, and help make sure the outcome is meaningful, actionable and informed by your experiences and deep insights. Read more about ways to get involved below.

Fiona McLeay
Board CEO and Commissioner

Risk Outlook 2024 now available

Our annual risk outlook gives lawyers a snapshot of the established and emerging legal sector trends that pose the greatest risk of harm to consumers and the reputation of the profession. The Risk Outlook 2024 unpacks our biggest concerns this year, which are:

  • cybersecurity breaches
  • improper use of AI
  • non-compliance with Uniform Law obligations
  • failure to comply with fundamental ethical duties
  • facilitation of money laundering
  • inadequate supervision.

When it comes to consumer harm, it pays to head off potential problems rather than have to fix them after a complaint is made.

The Risk Outlook 2024 gives you access to up-to-date, trusted information on these key risks, along with practical resources to help you avoid them and stay at the forefront of best practice.

We encourage you to discuss the Risk Outlook 2024 with your staff and colleagues, and let us know how we could improve the content to better support you in avoiding risk.

Are cybercriminals impersonating your law practice's website?

Recently, we've become aware of several incidents where cybercriminals have impersonated legitimate law practice websites. These criminals use tactics including:

  • lifting information and images directly from legitimate sites
  • using AI-generated images of lawyers with altered names
  • creating URLs with wording resembling the law practice’s name.

So how does it work? The sham sites house links that, when clicked on, dupe unknowing consumers into handing over their personal data. We also know of instances where letters of demand look to have been sent to consumers from the fraudulent organisations behind these sites.

Keeping your clients’ data – and your law practice’s reputation – safe
With cybercrime becoming more and more sophisticated – and in turn, much harder to detect – law practices must be vigilant at all times, and regularly review and update their protection protocols.

This includes being on the lookout for websites claiming to be your business or another law practice, and acting with caution. When searching for another law practice’s website, don’t assume the first search result is the correct site, and verify their contact details independently.

Taking action immediately
If you come across a fake site, report the crime immediately. We also recommend notifying the search engine (e.g. Google) so they can remove the URL from search results. If it’s your business, notify your clients and stakeholders as soon as possible to make sure they’re aware of your actual website address. If it’s another law practice, notify them or our office as soon as possible.

Trusted resources
Access our practical resources to guide you in putting in place robust cybersecurity controls, ensuring you meet your obligations to your clients, your law practice and the wider legal system. Remember, if you do experience a cybersecurity breach, you need to let us know about it via our lawyer enquiry form.

Launching our first Reconciliation Action Plan

On 9 April 2024, we officially launched our inaugural Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). We’re proud to join Reconciliation Australia’s network of 2,500 organisations working to promote inclusion and celebrate culture through active engagement with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The critical importance of our RAP is driven by the challenging experiences of First Nations peoples across Victoria’s legal system, coupled with our capacity to effect real change within the profession.

Our RAP focuses primarily on strengthening relationships and understanding through engagement, education and awareness. These principles will be implemented at every level of our organisation – from recruitment and staff training through to regulation and to improving outcomes for First Nations people in our everyday operations. 

As we implement our plan, we will report on what we achieve, the challenges we encounter and what we learn. Our Reflect RAP will run until March 2025.

Help build a roadmap to better lawyer wellbeing in Victoria

Lawyers staying safe and well while delivering high-quality legal services is a shared goal across Victoria’s legal system, and a key priority for the VLSB+C. However, research shows poor lawyer wellbeing persists, and that system-wide action is needed to effect genuine and lasting change.

This is why we’re launching the Lawyer Wellbeing Theory of Change project.

The project will develop a Theory of Change model that shows where, how, and why change should happen at all levels within the legal system.   

To lead engagement and guide the process, we’ve appointed experts in social research and evaluation, First Person Consulting (FPC). FPC has set up a flexible process for you to share your insights through online surveys and workshops.

We invite you to:

  • complete a brief survey about the root causes of poor lawyer wellbeing
  • register your interest to stay up to date with the project and find out about opportunities to get involved.

Accessing Victoria's Spent Convictions Scheme

Under the Spent Convictions Act 2021 (the Act), the Spent Convictions Scheme (the Scheme) is designed to support rehabilitation and reduce stigma.

It acknowledges that people who have worked hard to turn their lives around deserve the chance to move on from minor and historical offending and not be faced with permanent barriers to employment, housing and other opportunities in life.

The Act sets out rules about when, where and how a person's criminal history can be shared.  

Unless an exemption applies, once a conviction is spent:

  • it no longer shows up on a police check
  • no one can ask you to disclose information about it
  • you don’t have to disclose that you have a criminal record if all your convictions are spent.

We encourage you to learn more about eligibility and which convictions can be spent, and exemptions that apply under the Scheme.

Renew your practising certificate before 30 June 2024

So far more than 20,000 lawyers have applied to renew their practising certificate, and we’re working hard to process all the applications we’ve received.

Certificate pending? Once you’ve applied to renew, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for us to issue you with a new certificate. Your certificate might be pending because: 
  • you haven’t met CPD requirements 
  • the trust account audit process is incomplete 
  • your practising certificate fee and/or professional indemnity insurance payment is outstanding 
  • we’re assessing disclosures you have made. 
If there were no changes to your practising certificate type, and you have paid your fees and any required insurance by 30 June 2024, you can continue to practise on your current certificate until we issue you with a new one. 
Haven't renewed yet and not sure what to do? Before sending us your question, check that it hasn’t already been answered in our practical resources, including step-by-step guides, videos and FAQs.
Not renewing? If you know that you won’t require a practising certificate after 30 June (i.e. you’re retiring, moving to a non-legal role or going on extended leave), please let us know by logging into LSB Online and clicking ‘Practising certificates’ and ‘Not renewing your practising certificate’. This will remove you from our reminder list. If you return to legal practice, you’ll be eligible to apply for a new practising certificate without incurring a surcharge. 
Received an SMS from us? Towards the end of the renewal period, we send SMS reminders to lawyers. We will never ask for your password, or any personal or payment details via SMS. Stay vigilant and make sure you‘re on our official website / LSB Online portal before entering any details. 
Paying by BPAY? If you’ve chosen to pay your practising certificate fees by BPAY, make sure you leave enough time for the payment to process before 30 June 2024. Payment needs to be received by this date for your renewal application to be considered valid and to be progressed. 
Failed to renew by 30 June 2024? If you haven’t submitted your application by 30 June 2024, any draft will be deleted and you’ll have to apply for a new practising certificate. You’ll also have to pay a 200% surcharge and you won’t be able to practise until we’ve issued you with a new certificate. 
Subject to Supervised Legal Practice (SLP) condition? If you want to have your SLP condition removed and avoid delays in processing your practising certificate renewal, you should: 
  • send us your SLP removal application via our lawyer enquiry form (we are processing these applications as quickly as we can)
  • renew your practising certificate via LSB Online as normal (you don’t need to attach any documents about SLP during this step). 
We’ll notify you when your condition has been removed and the condition will no longer appear on your practising certificate. 


Have your say: supervised legal practice

As part of the annual practising certificate renewal process, we’re conducting an anonymous survey of lawyers who supervise (or have previously supervised) early career lawyers under a supervised legal practice (SLP) condition.

If you haven’t completed the survey yet and are currently supervising or have done so within the last five years, we’d still love to hear from you. Having your say will help us develop resources and policies to better support early career lawyers and the lawyers who supervise them.

The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete and is entirely anonymous – we won’t be able to identify you or your employer based on feedback you provide. The survey will close on 30 June 2024.

Take the survey now

Customer experience surveys

As part of our commitment to continual improvement, this month we’ll launch a new initiative to help us better understand the experience of the people who access our services. To find out if our systems, processes and communications meet the needs of the people we interact with – and what changes we can make if they’re not – we’ll be sending out customer experience (CX) surveys. 

After interacting with us, we may send you an email asking you to take part. The anonymous and voluntary surveys are being conducted by specialist CX survey provider, Customer Service Benchmarking Australia (CSBA), who will provide us with a de-identified report.  

The surveys will be conducted in line with our privacy policy and are completely voluntary. You can opt-out of receiving survey invitations via the initial email.   

We encourage you to share your feedback to help improve the supports we provide. You can find out more about the surveys here.

VLA'S pilot Equity and Diversity List

A more diverse practice of the law is more likely to reflect the broader community, and be sensitive and responsive to community needs and systemic and individual issues.

This is why Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) has launched a pilot Equity and Diversity List – a resource to help lawyers find and brief counsel for legal aid work who identify as diverse. Data collected from the list will help VLA assess the briefing fees paid to diverse counsel, and set targets to increase their briefing.

Barristers and advocates who self-identify as diverse (i.e. as a woman or as gender diverse, culturally diverse, a person of colour, First Nations, LGBTQIA+ and/or living with disability) are encouraged to opt into the list via VLA’s web form.

Find out more about how the list will work, and VLA’s broader Equitable briefing strategy.

New Law Library tours

Law Library Victoria invites you to join a 60-minute tour of the Supreme Court Library, where you’ll learn more about current and historical resources that support the research needs of lawyers. These tours are exclusive to legal practitioners and worth 1 CPD point. Tours are available throughout the year, and can be booked here.

LPLC news

Want to learn more about common cyber threats and our Minimum cybersecurity expectations? Access the Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee’s (LPLC’s) recording with LPLC Risk Manager and experienced cyber lawyer Dr. Fabian Horton.

This webinar is designed to equip all practitioners, especially those without in-house cyber security advisors.

Commercial and industrial property tax reform – what you need to know
The Victorian Commercial and Industrial Property Tax Reform Act 2024 will commence from 1 July 2024. Access LPLC's comprehensive overview and webinar for helpful risk management tips on navigating this new tax.

Is suing for costs really worth it?
The decision to sue a client for unpaid legal fees can be met with an allegation of negligence. Read LPLC’s article, which provides risk management tips for lawyers who are considering legal action for unpaid fees as well as measures to put in place from the outset to help avoid being in this difficult situation.

Risk management for messaging apps and SMS
Text messages and instant messaging via apps like WhatsApp and WeChat can present challenges and risks for law practices. To learn more about common risks in relation to record retention, data security and confidentiality, read LPLC’s article.

LIV news

It’s time to renew your LIV membership
The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) proudly supports more than 18,600 members. With cost pressures on the rise, they’re working to keep LIV membership affordable and accessible while enhancing its value by:

  • continuing to provide resources, services and support, including:
    • ethics and practice support
    • library resources
    • daily Law News and the Law Institute Journal
    • wellbeing counselling
    • opportunities to network and contribute in LIV’s advocacy work
    • attend most of their digital seminars and events
  • advocating for the profession and on behalf of the community by working with ministers, governments, members of Parliament and the Law Council of Australia on rule of law, access to justice and administration of justice issues.

You can renew your LIV membership now via your LIV Dashboard. Not yet a member? Speak with the LIV membership team by emailing or calling 03 9607 9470.

LIV Accredited Specialisation
LIV has announced the 140 successful applicants for the 2024 Accredited Specialisation assessment program, and awarded seven scholarships – four community legal centre scholarships, two sole practitioner / small firm scholarships and the inaugural First Nations scholarship. Register your interest for 2025.

VLF news

PULS briefing rollout has begun
The Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS) includes significant findings specifically relevant to certain service providers and policy makers. To make sure the data and insights have the biggest impact, throughout the year, Victoria Law Foundation (VLF) is sharing short briefings to give the right elements of the research to the right people. If you have a request for data on a particular topic, contact the research team.

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