By -

In April of every year, solicitors in NSW renew their practising certificate. To many this seems like a routine process. However, it is an important part of the regulatory system through which the integrity of the legal profession is maintained.

It is an annual process through which your ongoing fitness to hold a practising certificate is considered and your regulatory information updated.  Section 45 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) (Uniform Law) says that the Council of the Law Society of New South Wales (Council) must not grant or renew a practising certificate if it considers that an applicant is not a fit and proper person to hold the certificate.

If you have not yet submitted your practising certificate renewal application, think about the following key steps.

Update your details

It is important to keep your practice and contact details up to date.

In fact, you are required to notify the Registry of any changes to your particulars, within 7 days after a change occurs (Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Regulation 2015 – reg. 61).

If your details change, and you have not notified of that change, the Law Society may be unable to contact you if a regulatory matter arises during the year and this could have consequences for how the matter is handled.

And if you have not updated us, you may not receive your renewal application form and therefore will cease to be entitled to engage in legal practice from 1 July.

Complete your CPD requirements

It is a statutory condition of your practising certificate that you complete your CPD requirements. You will be asked to verify your compliance when you renew your practising certificate.

The CPD year ended on 31 March 2024.

If you have not complied with your CPD requirements, in your practising certificate renewal application, you will need to either:

  1. Apply for an exemption from your CPD requirements; or
  2. Submit a rectification of non-compliance CPD plan.

Renew your practising certificate in time

Practising certificate renewals are now open. Pursuant to the legal profession legislation, all renewals must be submitted by 15 May 2024. If you have not already submitted your renewal, ensure that you do this before the cut-off date. If you don’t renew your practising certificate by 30 June 2024, you will be not be authorised to engage in legal practice from 1 July 2024.

If you miss the cut-off date, but you still want to practise after 1 July, you will need to make a fresh application for the grant of your practising certificate. This may take some time to consider and you are not entitled to engage in legal practice whilst this process is occurring.  In some cases, Council may need to appoint a manager to take over your practice at your expense whilst your fresh application is being considered.

Think about what you need to disclose

When you renew your practising certificate, you will be asked to disclose certain events or information. This is required by s87 of the Uniform Law and rule 12 of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015, which contemplates all the matters referred to in rule 13.  The question you need to ask yourself is – Is there anything which has occurred in the last 12 months that might be relevant to your fitness to practice?

You will be asked to declare the information you provide is true and correct.

It is important to turn your mind to this question and think carefully before you answer.  A failure to disclose can have significant consequences, including refusal of your PC or disciplinary action for professional misconduct – see for example, Tangsilsat v Council of the Law Society of New South Wales [2019] NSWCA 144

In addition to your practising certificate renewal application – what if I am a principal?

There are two additional requirements if you are a principal.

First, every principal must ensure that they have professional indemnity insurance in place. If this has not been arranged, Council may be left with no option but to refuse your practising certificate.

Council has previously refused practitioners’ renewal applications because of a practitioner’s failure to have insurance in place.

Second, every principal must complete various trust account declarations in relation to handling trust money.

The first of these, the Part A declaration, was due on 30 April, where you must declare whether or not you have held trust money in the year ending 31 March.

If you answer yes, you must then complete a Part B declaration by 31 May and have an External Examiner appointed to your practice to prepare an External Examiners Report which must be lodged with the Trust Account Department by the same date.  Click here for more information.

The External Examination process is critical to ensuring the integrity and reputation of the legal profession is maintained when handling trust money.   Accordingly, a failure to submit either the Part A or Part B declaration, or the External Examiners Report, are viewed very seriously by Council.

Council has previously refused practising certificates of practitioners who failed to comply with their trust account obligations or failed to respond to correspondence from the Law Society.

Smooth sailing

Each year the Law Society processes around 38,000 practising certificates renewals.

The Law Society strongly encourages you to consider the matters above to ensure your application for renewal is dealt with as quickly and as smoothly as possible.