Changes to the regulation of barristers' clerks in Victoria

 

Date issued: 30 August 2017

 

The use of "approved clerks" to receive trust money on behalf of barristers is a long standing practice of the Victorian Bar. From today, the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (Vic) (the Victorian Application Act) has been amended to provide stronger regulation by the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner (the Board) in respect of approved clerks.  

This move strengthens the regulatory oversight of approved clerks, making it more consistent with the regime that applies to law practices.

In general, the Uniform Law requirements for the handling of trust money apply to an approved clerk in the same way that they apply to a law practice.

The changes to Division 3 of Part 5 of the Victorian Application Act are:

  • Transferal of the power to licence approved clerks from the Victorian Bar to the Board to achieve a greater level of alignment with the Uniform framework  
  • Any person who is not an 'approved clerk' who receives money on account of the legal costs of a barrister will be in breach of a civil penalty provision.
  • A new 'fit and proper' test will be applied by the Board in determining whether to grant a person approval as an approved clerk.
  • The Board is granted a new power to revoke or suspend an approval of an approved clerk.
  • The Board is provided with a limited range of options for external intervention where the Board considers that intervention necessary to protect clients' trust money.
  • The Board will be able to appoint a supervisor of trust money to supervise an approved clerk, in certain circumstances.
  • Consistent with the regime applicable to law practices, an 'aggrieved person', such as a barrister or a client, will have the power to seek the review of a decision of the Board to appoint a supervisor in the Supreme Court.

View legislation here