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This policy outlines the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner’s (VLSB+C) approach to granting an Australian practising certificate subject to a condition that the holder is authorised to receive trust money.
This policy sets out how an applicant may demonstrate the necessary skills and expertise which will guide the Victorian Legal Services Board’s (the Board) discretion to grant to an applicant an Australian practising certificate authorising the receipt of trust money.
The conduct of legal business often requires the safe, reliable transfer of money, which is typically conducted through law practices’ trust accounts. It is vital to maintain the integrity of law practices’ trust accounts as consumers of legal services are entitled to expect proper management for the safekeeping of their money. Lawyers who are entitled to receive trust money have a fiduciary duty to those persons on whose behalf they hold it and the consequences of breaching that duty can be that criminal or disciplinary action is taken.
The VLSB+C are responsible for ensuring lawyers are competent and maintain high ethical and professional standards such that both clients of law practices and the public generally are protected. The Board, as the designated local regulatory authority, may grant Australian practising certificates at its discretion and may have regard to matters relevant to the exercise of that discretion including the competency, expertise, knowledge and experience of the lawyer applying to hold a particular type of practising certificate.
The objective of Part 4.2 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (Victoria) (Uniform Law) is to ensure that trust money is held in a manner that protects the interests of those persons for whom and on whose behalf trust money is held. The extensive regulation of trust money in Part 4.2 reflects lawyer’s fiduciary obligations and is indicative of the importance of the additional responsibility carried by lawyers who are authorised to receive trust money and to deal with it on behalf of their clients and other members of the community. The detriment to consumers of legal services on whose behalf trust money is held can be significant where trust money is dealt with improperly or with a lack of competence or diligence.
It is therefore a relevant consideration for the Board to have regard to whether an applicant seeking trust authorisation possesses the necessary skills and expertise. In addition to lawyers’ fiduciary obligations to hold trust money safely, dealing with trust money also requires particular technical skills in accounting and records management. This policy sets out the skills and expertise to which the Board will have regard in considering whether an Australian practising certificate will be granted with trust authorisation or without trust authorisation to an applicant lawyer.