Use of the titles Principal, Partner, Director


11 Oct 2019

Under the Legal Profession Act 2008 a principal of a law practice has greater responsibilities and liabilities than an employed legal practitioner. It is important that the title accurately reflects the legal practitioner's position in the law practice.

Section 6(3) of the Legal Profession Act 2008 defines a principal of a law practice as an Australian legal practitioner who is —

(a)   a sole practitioner (in the case of a law practice constituted by the practitioner); or

(b)   a partner in the law practice (in the case of a law firm); or

(c)   a legal practitioner director in the law practice (in the case of an incorporated legal practice); or

(d)   a legal practitioner partner in the law practice (in the case of a multi‑disciplinary partnership).

Most importantly, misuse of the title "principal" by legal practitioners who are not principals under the Legal Profession Act 2008 may be misleading or simply untrue.

The terms “partner” and “director” are not defined in the Legal Profession Act 2008 and in the circumstances the Board’s view is that those terms should be given their natural and ordinary meeting. The term “partner” denotes a legal practitioner carrying on legal practice in common with one or more other legal practitioners. The term “director” denotes a person employed as an officer of an incorporated legal practice and having an obligation to perform the duties of management of the legal practice acting as a member of the board of directors.

In that regard the Board cautions practitioners to be mindful of their legal obligation not to mislead the court, members of the public, other practitioners and their clients regarding their position in a law practice and reserves the right to deal with matters where that obligation is shown to have been breached.