Disqualified lay associates
The Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) imposes legislative restraints on employing certain persons. Section 121 provides that a law practice must not have a lay associate whom any principal or legal practitioner associate of the law practice knows to be ‘a disqualified person’ or ‘a person who has been convicted of a serious offence’, unless the associate is approved by the ‘relevant authority’.
Who is a lay associate?
A lay associate is any associate who is not a legal practitioner and includes:
- employees, and
- persons who share receipts, revenue or other income arising from the law practice.
Who is a disqualified person?
A person is considered to be a ‘disqualified person’ under section 6 of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) if:
- their name has been and remains removed from the Australian Roll of Lawyers
- their Practising Certificate has been suspended or cancelled, or its renewal has been refused
- they are the subject of an order prohibiting them from working for, or in, a law practice, managing an incorporated legal practice, or being a partner in a multi-disciplinary partnership.
What constitutes a serious offence?
A serious offence is defined in section 6 and its meaning is expanded by the definition of "conviction" (also in section 6) which includes a finding of guilt, or the acceptance of a guilty plea by the court,whether or not a conviction is recorded.
I am a disqualified lay associate. Can I still work?
A disqualified person, or a person convicted of a serious offence, must not seek to become a lay associate unless the person first informs the law practice of the disqualification or conviction.
What are the penalties?
A maximum of 100 penalty units can be sought to be imposed against a law practice that employs a person in breach of section 121.
Who are the relevant authorities?
In the case of a disqualified person who is an associate of a solicitor, the Law Society Council can give approval. In the case of a person who has been convicted of a serious offence, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal is the relevant authority.
How can I find out who is a disqualified lay person?
The Law Society of NSW is bound by the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) to retain a register of persons who have been disqualified from being employed by a legal practice. You can access this list at Register of Disqualified Persons or by looking at a hard copy of the list held by the Law Society of NSW Library.
How can my firm avoid the penalties?
As part of your management processes there should be in place a procedure for obtaining relevant information and authorities from future associates of your practice and a requirement for staff to advise should the requirement for disclosure of a serious offence or disqualification arise.