In response to the Centre’s continued advocacy, and in line with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry Report, free volunteer practising certificates are now available in the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales.
New South Wales
Free volunteer practising certificates were introduced in NSW with the commencement of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (LPUL) on 1 July 2015. In NSW a lawyer who holds a volunteer practising certificate can practise as a volunteer at a community legal service or otherwise on a pro bono basis, only (as defined by the LPUL). To apply for a free volunteer practising certificate in NSW please visit the Law Society of New South Wales’ website.
The commencement of the LPUL led to the expansion of the volunteer practising certificate regime in Victoria. Prior to the commencement of the LPUL, the holder of a volunteer practising certificate in Victoria was only permitted to practice as a volunteer at a community legal service. From 1 July 2015 a Victorian lawyer holding a volunteer practising certificate can practice as a volunteer either at a community legal service or on an otherwise pro bono basis, only. To apply for a free volunteer practising certificate in Victoria please contact the Victorian Legal Services Board.
Australian Capital Territory
Earlier this month free volunteer practising certificates became available in the Australian Capital Territory. These free volunteer practising certificates will enable volunteer (including career break and retired) practitioners to obtain a volunteer practising certificate which allows them to practice as a “volunteer providing pro bono services” at the following organisations:
- a community legal centre;
- Legal Aid ACT;
- the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT);
- the ACT Law Society’s Legal Assistance Bureau;
- the Pro Bono Clearing house; and/or
- any other entity approved by the Council of the ACT Law Society. Applicants must apply to the ACT Law Society for approval prior to commencing the volunteer legal practice.
Volunteer practising certificates will be available on a restricted and unrestricted basis, and practitioners holding such certificates must comply with continuing professional development (5 units only) and supervision requirements. It is also a condition of an ACT volunteer practising certificate that the practitioner does not:
- engage in private practice; or
- act as:
- a director of an incorporated practice;
- a partner in a law firm;
- a partner of a multi-disciplinary partnership;
- a supervising legal practitioner at a community legal centre;
- a sole practitioner; or
- receive trust money.
To apply for a free volunteer practising certificate please visit the ACT Law Society’s website. Applicants for free volunteer practising certificates in the ACT can also apply for free professional indemnity insurance under the Centre’s National Pro Bono Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme.
The Centre congratulates the Council of the ACT Law Society, the ACT government, the New South Wales and Victorian governments, the Law Society of New South Wales and the Victorian Legal Service Board for the positive steps they have taken to facilitate free and pro bono legal services.