- Do you have appropriate management systems in place in your firm? If you are audited by the Legal Services Commissioner, two of the key objectives against which you will be assessed are the timely delivery of legal services and staff supervision.
- Following a compliance audit, the Commissioner may issue a management system direction directing your practice to implement appropriate management systems.
- Periodic reports must then provide evidence of the systems that have been implemented and the way in which they operate.
As the NSW Legal Services Commissioner, I work jointly with the Law Society Council and Bar Council as the designated local regulatory authorities in NSW that regulate the legal profession. It may come as no surprise that I always read with great interest articles in the Law Society Journal written by the solicitors at the Professional Support Unit of the Law Society and LawCover. It has often occurred to me that in fact ‘risk management’ and ‘compliance’ are actually two sides of the same coin. Two articles in 2019 in particular cemented that view: ‘Three compliance considerations for staff recruitment’ by Glenda Carry in the October issue and the article in the November issue, ‘Reduce risk and stress by systematically managing critical dates’, by Jen McMillan at LawCover.
Appropriate management systems
The issues of timely delivery of legal services and staff supervision are two of the key objectives against which law practices are audited. In practice, under the Legal Profession Uniform Law regime, my Office is the designated local regulatory authority that conducts compliance audits. A law practice may be audited where I consider there are reasonable grounds based on either the conduct or a complaint about a law practice, or one of its principals or employees.
Before the audit takes place, the principal(s) of the law practice are usually asked to complete a questionnaire. This questionnaire focuses on the ten key objectives that were identified originally by my predecessor, Steve Mark, in collaboration with the Law Society, the College of Law and LawCover as forming the basis of ‘appropriate management systems’ when law practices were first permitted to incorporate. The ten objectives (sometimes referred to as the ‘Ten Commandments’) are: