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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.

In anticipation of renewing your practising certificate, start thinking 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 haven’t 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 haven’t updated us, at renewal time you may not receive your renewal application form.

Complete your CPD by 31 March 2023

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 closes on 31 March 2023.

Renew your practising certificate in time

The Law Society will shortly let you know the exact date you can renew your practising certificate, and the cut-of date you have to do so. If you don’t renew your practising certificate by the cut-off date,

you will be unauthorised to engage in legal practice from 1 July.

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 your certificate. This may take some time to consider.  In some cases, the Council may need to appoint a manager to take over your practice at your expense as you will not be able to engage in legal practice 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 rule 12 of the Legal Profession Uniform General Rules 2015, which contemplates 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

Visit here for advice on what you need to disclose and when.

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, the Council may be left with no option but to refuse your practising certificate.

Council recently refused six practitioners’ renewal applications because they did not have insurance in place, following no response to correspondence from the Society.

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

The first of these, the Part A declaration, is due on 30 April and 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 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 recently refused the practising certificates of two practitioners who failed to comply with their obligations.

Smooth sailing

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

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.