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  • Good supervisory skills do not come naturally to everyone, which is why it is important for principals and supervisors to consider and acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and ‘up skill’ accordingly.
  • Importantly, principals and solicitors with ‘designated responsibility’ also have statutory obligations to exercise ‘reasonable supervision’ over their staff and the legal services provided by the firm.
  • You, your staff and your practice will benefit from implementing a number of specific management systems.

The chief resource of a law practice is its workforce. To a large extent, success can depend on developing and retaining talented, well trained staff. The ‘product’ is legal services and delivery should be consistent regardless of which staff member has carriage of the matter. A sound, well implemented management system goes a long way to achieving this consistency.

Obligations surrounding supervision arise from legal profession legislation as well as under common law.

Supervision of legal services

Rule 37 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules 2015 states: ‘[a] solicitor with designated responsibility for a matter must exercise reasonable supervision over solicitors and all other employees engaged in the provision of the legal services for that matter.’

The glossary to the conduct rules specifies that the ‘solicitor with designated responsibility’ means the solicitor ultimately responsible for a client’s matter or the solicitor responsible for supervising the solicitor that has carriage of a client’s matter. The case of Kelly v Jowett [2009] NSWCA 278 tells us that where a solicitor is employed by another solicitor, the client’s retainer is with the employer.

What constitutes ‘reasonable supervision’ is not specifically defined however. What is required to meet the standard will vary depending on the particular circumstances existing at the time.

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