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Commissioner Update - March 2024

In this issue:

  • Introduction from the Commissioner
  • Safeguarding against cybercrime: best practice resources now available
  • Spotlight on the Wellness for Law Forum 2024
  • Renewing your practising certificate
  • Survey on supervised legal practice
  • End of CPD year
  • End of trust year
  • LPLC news
  • Updates from Victoria Law Foundation
  • Visit the new Law Library Victoria website
  • LIV news
  • Have your say on the sentencing of workplace safety offences

Introduction from the Commissioner

It was again a pleasure to be invited to speak at the Legal Laneway Breakfast in February, and I took the opportunity to highlight two key areas of focus for my office this year – lawyer wellbeing and cybersecurity.

I shared an important message on the need for all lawyers to prioritise cybersecurity, and to safeguard their law practice against the threat of cybercrime. If you lock your office when you go home at night but don’t take cybersecurity seriously, then you’re missing the much bigger threat. Hackers want money, and information they can turn into money, and lawyers hold both of these things. This is why we've focused our efforts on developing practical resources that will help you put in place robust cybersecurity controls, ensuring you meet your professional obligations. See the article below for links to these new resources.

We were thrilled to sponsor the Wellness for Law Forum, which also took place in February. This unique event plays a key role in fostering connectivity and networking and driving positive change in lawyer wellbeing. We were fortunate to have international experts in lawyer wellbeing, Professor Nathalie Cadieux from Canada and Dr Emma J. Jones from the UK, visit our office after the forum. They spoke with me about what their research tells us, what we – as the regulator – can do, and what they believe works when it comes to achieving wellness in the profession. Watch our videos below to hear directly from the experts.

With the PC renewal period fast approaching, we’ll be communicating with you a bit more than usual if you are a practising lawyer, so please keep an eye out for further updates on the steps you need to take to renew your PC.

Fiona McLeay
Board CEO and Commissioner

Safeguarding against cybercrime: best practice resources now available

Cybercrime is a real and major risk for law practices – no matter what their size. The large sums of money and sensitive information that your clients entrust to you makes you a prime target for cybercriminals.

Putting in place robust cybersecurity controls is a non-negotiable requirement for good practice management. However, for law practices without established IT supports, we know it can be challenging to navigate implementing these controls, and to know where to start.

Our new cybersecurity resources walk you through the practical steps you need to take to ensure you meet your professional obligations to protect your clients’ information, safeguard your law practice from financial loss and reputational damage, and prevent harm to the wider legal system.

Minimum Cybersecurity Expectations 
This resource unpacks important controls for your practice that reduce your exposure to cyberattacks, including:

  • critical controls to act on immediately – we expect all law practices to implement these as soon as possible, including:
    • enabling multi-factor authentication
    • having strong and unique passwords
    • turning on regular security and software updates
  • system controls, such as security software and backups, which are technical safeguards that protect your information systems against external threats and vulnerabilities
  • behavioural controls, such as training and client verification, that influence and regulate human behaviour in order to minimise security risks.  

This resource also lists examples of conduct that could constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.

It’s imperative that you review all the minimum expectations thoroughly, as we expect any controls relevant to your practice to be adopted as soon as practicable.

Red Flags and Good Practices 
This resource will help individual lawyers and law practice staff to: 

  • recognise key warning signs for potential cybersecurity incidents – from phishing attempts and physical threats through to unusual network activity
  • act quickly to mitigate the impact of a cyberattack, limiting further harm to your clients and business
  • adopt more cybersecure ways of working by being careful about what you share on social media, avoiding unknown USBs and unsecured Wi-Fi, and making sure you keep your personal devices secure and up-to-date
  • meet our expectations for client verification by directly checking with the client when handling financial transactions and sensitive instructions.

Implementing cybersecurity controls may take time, but they are important to make sure you, your practice, and the profession are cybersecure.

Read more on our website about why cybersecurity matters and what you need to do, and where you can find more information.

Spotlight on the Wellness for Law Forum 2024

In our commitment to promoting a culture of wellbeing within the profession, we were thrilled to sponsor the recent Wellness for Law Forum 2024: Reflecting on the Past, Shaping the Future. 

Hosted by Melbourne Law School and Monash University’s Faculty of Law, the event was a unique platform for legal academics, lawyers and law students to: 

  • share mental health and wellbeing research, perspectives and experiences
  • ask the tough questions – what progress have we actually made and what are we yet to achieve?

Key highlights 
International lawyer wellbeing experts – and keynote speakers at the event – took a moment after the forum to speak with Board CEO and Commissioner Fiona McLeay about the event’s key highlights. 

Dr Emma J. Jones from the University of Sheffield in the UK was pleased to see that the dialogue had moved on from ways to ensure lawyers survive amidst problems with wellbeing. She noted that the focus had gone beyond that – to being about thriving and flourishing. 

Professor Nathalie Cadieux from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada saw a shift from focusing on the individual to the need for systemic change – that the mental health of lawyers needs action at every level.

Find out more by watching our videos of Dr Jones and Professor Cadieux sharing:

Renewing your practising certificate

If you want to continue practising from 1 July 2024, you’ll need to apply to renew your certificate before then. LSB Online will open for renewals on Monday, 25 March 2024.
We will contact you next week with more details. In the meantime: 

  • log in to LSB Online now, review your contact and employment details, and update them if you need to
  • check that you’ve completed at least 10 points of CPD (see below).

Survey on supervised legal practice

As part of the annual practising certificate renewal period, we survey Victorian lawyers to find out more about their working lives. These anonymous and voluntary surveys are a chance for lawyers to share their perspectives on emerging issues and trends in the profession and help inform the work we do. 

Last year, we surveyed early career lawyers about their experiences and challenges during supervised legal practice (SLP). This year, we’re surveying the lawyers who supervise them to make sure we gain a balanced understanding of the way SLP works in Victorian legal workplaces. 

Our aim? To draw on the insights gained from both surveys and develop resources that will better support early career lawyers and their supervisors. 

Participating in the survey
You will be invited to take part in our survey after you complete your practising certificate renewal application. We encourage all lawyers who supervise lawyers on SLP to complete the survey. 

End of CPD year

Reminder: You need to have completed 10 units of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or pro-rata by 31 March 2024.

When choosing CPD, make sure it’s meaningful and relevant to your area of practice. Top tip? Think about the gaps in your knowledge and skills, and current or emerging risks and challenges, such as technological developments or changes to the law.

It’s important to know that if you’re audited, you may be asked to explain how the CPD you’ve done has helped your professional development.

Find out more about what to look for in your CPD, how many pro-rata units you need if you didn’t work a full year and whether you can apply for an exemption.

End of trust year

Reminder: The trust year also ends on 31 March 2024. 

All lawyers who held a practising certificate with trust authorisation for any period of time between April 2023 and March 2024 must complete the Part A form.

All law practices and barristers’ clerks who operate trust accounts are required to have their trust records examined. Now is the time to:

  • contact your External Examiner 
  • make sure that your trust account records – including reconciliations – are up to date
  • arrange for your law practice’s annual trust account examination.

We require External Examiners to report on all the issues they identify in trust account records, regardless of the underlying reasons or causes for any breaches. For more guidance, access our policy and External Examiners checklist.

Key dates
3 April 2024 – LSB Online opens for submission of Part A and Part B forms
30 April 2024 – Part A and Part B forms are due
31 May 2024 – External Examiner reports are due

LPLC news

Managing risk around property tax changes
Victorian lawyers working in areas involving property tax should be aware of significant changes that are now in effect, and how these may impact their clients. The changes were made under the State Taxation Acts and Other Acts Amendment Act 2023, and include Land Tax, Windfall Gains Tax, Vacant Residential Land Tax and new arrangements for some unimproved residential land. 

To help you understand the changes and manage the risks:

Important cybersecurity guidance for lawyers and law practices
The recent release of our minimum cybersecurity expectations, red flags and good practices guidance for lawyers has sharpened the focus on cybersecurity as a vital part of practice management. 

For more practical guidance on how to become cybersafe, we encourage you to:

Updates from Victoria Law Foundation

Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS) Volume 2
The Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS) Volume 2 is now available. It explores Victorians’ legal capability – the knowledge, skills, attributes and resources they need to effectively understand and use the law and achieve fair outcomes. Access the survey’s findings for unprecedented insight into the levels and patterns of legal capability in Victoria.

Community Legal Grants
VLF’s Community Legal Grants are now open. The funding is available for projects that improve community understanding of a civil legal issue or help to navigate Victoria’s justice system. Up to $20,000 is available for projects that are ready to start in 2024–25, and that pilot ideas or create resources to meet a demonstrated legal need.

Measure for Measure
The new Measure for Measure research project explores opportunities and challenges that come with initiatives for helping Victorians to avoid or resolve their everyday legal issues. VLF is asking Victorian justice sector stakeholders to share their work and insights via an online survey. This will inform and support decision-makers, policy, services and funders to better meet the legal needs of all Victorians.

Visit the new Law Library Victoria website

Have you accessed Law Library Victoria’s revamped, easy-to-navigate website

It offers:

  • 24/7 access to expert legal content
  • collections on specialised areas of law
  • My List – your personalised shortlist that gives you fast access to the resources you frequently call on.

Visit Law Library Victoria’s events page to book your guided tour of the website and browse the range of online training webinars on offer – including sessions worth CPD points. 

LIV news

LIV First Nations Scholarships
In their commitment to supporting opportunities and pathways in the legal profession for First Nations lawyers and law graduates, the Law Institute of Victoria and Australian College of Applied Professions (ACAP) are offering First Nations scholarships.

The ACAP Practical Legal Training program, developed in partnership with the LIV, leads to a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (GDLP). With each intake, an eligible First Nations student will be offered a GDLP scholarship covering 100% of the course fees.

First Nations scholarships are also available to eligible students in each area of LIV accredited specialisation, and cover the full assessment application fee – find out more.

LIV 2024 CPD Intensive
The LIV 2024 CPD Intensive is your chance to hear from leading experts on the big issues facing the profession. You’ll hear from 50+ speakers and gain updates across family, property, succession, workplace relations, commercial and criminal law, achieving up to 12 hours CPD in the process. You’ll also have the opportunity to join a practice management workshop and explore the latest legal AI tools.

Secure your spot at LIV’s flagship event, which will run on 26 March 2024 at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne. 

Have your say on the sentencing of workplace safety offences

As part of the Sentencing Advisory Council’s review of Victoria’s sentencing of occupational health and safety (OHS) offences, the Council has raised potential areas for reform and asked important questions, including whether current sentencing practices align with community expectations.

For insight into public and stakeholder opinion, the Council is inviting anyone with an interest in this space to: 

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