Supervised Legal Practice Guidelines
(Legal Profession Act 2008)


A PDF version of this document is available for download .

It is a legislative requirement that following admission and the obtaining of a practising
certificate, a local legal practitioner can only engage in the practice of law if supervised by a
legal practitioner holding an unrestricted practising certificate, in a capacity prescribed in s.50
of the Legal Profession Act 2008 (Act). This is to enable the newly admitted practitioner to
obtain relevant experience in the practice of law before he or she is able to practice
unsupervised or on their own account.

Section 50(4) of the Act requires a local legal practitioner who does not have the “required
experience” to engage in restricted legal practice only. Refer to s.50 of the Act for the
definition of “restricted legal practice”.

A practitioner may apply for the removal of this statutory condition from his or her practising
certificate when the practitioner has completed the “required experience”.
It is the responsibility of the practitioner to ensure compliance with the restricted practice
requirements of s.50 of the Act and to provide evidence of completion of the required period
of “supervised legal practice”. However, the Legal Practice Board of WA (Board) provides
the following guidance.
 

What is "required experience"?

“Required experience” is defined in s.50(1) of the Act. The practical interpretation of this
provision is:

  • The “required experience” for a lawyer who completed formal articles of clerkship registered with the Board (or a similar arrangement, such as the 12 month supervised workplace training contracts available in other Australian jurisdictions) will be 18 months.
  • The default position for all other lawyers is that the “required experience” will be 2 years. This includes all lawyers who completed an approved practical legal training (PLT) course prior to admission. This is the case, even if the person was employed as a law graduate, doing legal work under the supervision of an Australian legal practitioner, for 12 months or more while completing the PLT course.
  • Local legal practitioners who have completed periods of post-admission legal practice under supervision in other Australian jurisdictions or overseas may, in some circumstances, be able to apply under s.50(7) of the Act, for a reduction in, or exemption from, restricted practice requirements. Please contact the Board for further information.
 

What periods of supervised legal practice can be counted towards the required experience?

Regulation 7 of the Legal Profession Regulations 2009 (Regulations) provides for the
periods of supervised legal practice that can be taken into account.
In addition:

  • “Normal periods of leave” are interpreted by the Board as 20 days annual leave and up to 10 days sick leave in any 12 month period of full-time employment.
  • The Board calculates full-time employment on the basis of 37.5 hours per week.
  • Supervised legal practice undertaken in excess of 37.5 hours per week, or undertaken outside of normal business hours/and or on weekends, is not taken into account.
 

Can the required experience be completed on a part-time basis?

Supervised legal practice worked on a part-time basis may count towards your period of
supervised legal practice if:

  • it is approved by the Board; and
  • it is equivalent to the required experience worked on a full-time basis: Refer to Reg 7 of the Regulations.

Please note that practitioners are expected to seek prior approval for part-time employment
to count towards the required period of supervised legal practice.

Applications to the Board for approval can be made by letter or email.

The Board’s policy regarding part-time supervised legal practice is:

  • Supervised legal practice may be undertaken on a part-time basis if a practitioner attends at the office of their employer on at least 3 separate days per week, for a period of not less than 20 hours in total. Up to 4 hours of the required 20 hours can be worked remotely in a ‘virtual office’ setting and those maximum 4 remote hours can amount to the required third day ‘at the office’ if worked on a separate day.
  • Absent exceptional circumstances, this policy will be strictly adhered to.
  • If any variation is proposed, a practitioner and/or prospective employer will be required to demonstrate why the policy ought not to apply.

The above policy does not prevent a restricted practitioner from working as a legal
practitioner for periods less than those approved by the Board. Rather, it means that time
worked as a lawyer that has not been approved by the Board will not usually count towards
the practitioner’s required period of supervised legal practice.
 

What is the definition of "supervised legal practice" pursuant to the LPA?

“Supervised legal practice” is defined at section 3 of the Act to mean legal practice by a
person who is an Australian legal practitioner:

  • As an employee of a law practice if –
    • at least one partner, legal practitioner director or other employee of the law practice is an Australian legal practitioner who holds an unrestricted practising certificate; and
    • the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of this Australian legal practitioner; or
  • As a partner in a law firm if
    • at least one other partner is an Australian legal practitioner who holds an unrestricted practising certificate; and
    • the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of this Australian legal practitioner; or
  • As a WA government lawyer if the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of the State Solicitor, the Director of Legal Aid, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the holder of an office prescribed for such purpose in the regulations; or
  • As an interstate government lawyer if the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of a person acting as a Director of the Australian Government Solicitor, a General Counsel of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission or the holder of an office prescribed for such purpose in the regulations; or
  • As an employee of a body that carries on a business other than the practice of a law (commonly referred to as an in-house lawyer) if the person engages in legal practice under the supervision of an Australian legal practitioner who holds an unrestricted practising certificate.
  • In a capacity approved the purpose under rule 3A of the Legal Profession Rules 2009 (Rules), as affected by rule 19 of the Rules.
 

Special Circumstances:

Pro Bono and Volunteer legal work: A restricted practitioner can only engage in legal
work on a volunteer or pro bono basis for:
a) a community legal centre within the meaning of s.388(1) of the Act;
b) the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (Inc.);
c) the Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia; or
d) a local charitable or not-for-profit body, if approved by the Board to do so
(refer s.50 of the Act and rule 19 of the Rules).

Secondment of restricted practitioners: If a law practice intends to second a restricted
practitioner employed by the law practice to the offices of an in-house corporation, the
restricted practitioner may be supervised by:

  • an unrestricted Australian legal practitioner who is a partner, legal practitioner director or employee of the law practice, or
  • an unrestricted Australian legal practitioner who is an employee of the in-house corporation (refer s.50 of the Act and rule 19 of the Rules).

The restricted practitioner should notify the Board by email of any periods of secondment,
and include in the email details of the supervision arrangements that will be in place during
the secondment.

Restricted practitioners employed by sole practitioners or incorporated legal practices
with only one legal practitioner director
: A restricted practitioner employed by a law
practice at which there is only one unrestricted Australian legal practitioner (the sole
practitioner
), may be supervised during periods of the sole practitioner’s absence, by
another unrestricted Australian legal practitioner. The supervision arrangements must be
approved by the Board. Requests for approval should describe the proposed supervision
arrangements and be signed by both the sole practitioner and the other unrestricted
Australian legal practitioner (refer s.50 of the Act and rule 19 of the Rules).

WA Government Lawyers and Interstate Government Lawyers: Legal practice as a
WA government lawyer or interstate government lawyer (including a Commonwealth
government lawyer) is included in the meaning of “restricted legal practice” in s.50 of the Act.
However, only specified government lawyers are included in the definition of “supervised
legal practice” in s.3 of the Act, being Australian legal practitioners engaging in legal practice
under the supervision of:
a) the State Solicitor;
b) Director of Legal Aid;
c) Director of Public Prosecutions;
d) a Director of the Australian Government Solicitor;
e) the Regional Commissioner, a General Counsel or Regional Counsel of the
Australian Securities and Investment Commission in Western Australia; or
f) the Deputy Director, Perth Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (Cwlth).

There is no mechanism under the Act for the Board to recognise other legal practice by WA
government lawyers or interstate government lawyers as counting towards the required
period of supervised legal practice. However, it may be possible in some circumstances for a
WA government lawyer who has been engaging in legal practice under supervision to make
an application under s.50(7) of the Act, for an exemption from the requirement to engage in
restricted legal practice only. See below for information about making an application under
s.50(7) of the Act.

An interstate government lawyer may only make an application for an exemption if and when
they apply for the grant of a local practising certificate.
 

Can I apply for an exemption from, or a reduction in, the required period of supervised legal practice?

Where legal practice does not fall within the definition of “supervised legal practice” as
defined in s.3 of the Act, it may be possible to seek an exemption from the requirement to
engage in restricted legal practice only, or a reduction in the required period, under s.50(7) of
the Act. For example, some WA government lawyers, or Commonwealth government
lawyers who hold a local practising certificate, may be able to apply for an exemption.
Similarly, a lawyer with two years or more recent legal experience in New Zealand may apply
for an exemption, or an overseas lawyer with two or more years recent legal experience in
specified countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada or Malaysia, may
apply for a reduction in the required period to 12 months.

A submission under s.50(7) should be in the form of a statutory declaration including:

  • The dates the applicant has engaged in legal practice and whether the legal practice was on a full-time or part-time basis;
  • The name of the law practice or organisation, the capacity in which employed and the nature of the legal practice previously engaged in;
  • Details of any supervision arrangements, including the name and qualifications of the supervisor, and the nature of the supervision.

The application should include a letter or other certification from the relevant
supervising/practitioners.

Applications under s.50(7) of the Act are considered on a case-by-case basis on their merits.

Work that is quasi-legal in nature will not usually be considered as legal practice, e.g.:

  • Paralegal work;
  • Working as a judge’s associate;
  • Policy work;
  • Working as a settlement agent;
  • Working as a migration agent;
  • Working as a tax agent.


What does "engage in legal practice under the supervision of" mean?

The Act does not define or provide guidance as to the meaning of the phrase “engage in
legal practice under the supervision of”.

The objectives of the supervision requirements include the following.

  • At least one person (i.e. the supervisor) must accept responsibility for the supervision of the restricted practitioner during the period of supervised legal practice.
  • The period of supervised legal practice can be overseen by more than one supervisor, consecutively, provided that there is continuity of direct supervision over the entire period of supervised legal practice.
  • The supervision requirement does not preclude any other Australian legal practitioner employed within the same organisation from settling or supervising work of the restricted practitioner.
  • Similarly, other Australian legal practitioners are not precluded from assisting with the supervision and instruction of the restricted practitioner.

The Board’s policy in relation to supervised legal practice is that the following minimum
arrangements be put in place:

  • That there be daily contact between the supervising practitioner and the restrictedpractitioner for the purpose of review, guidance and instruction;
  • That any legal advice or assistance provided by the restricted practitioner (verbal or written) to a client has been approved by the supervising practitioner before it is provided to the client; and
  • That the supervising practitioner scrutinises and signs-off on correspondence andother documents prepared by the restricted practitioner.

To prevent an inadvertent breach of the Act, a restricted practitioner should seek prior
approval from the Board if it is proposed that the supervising practitioner will not be
physically located at the same office as the restricted practitioner; or if any other unusual
circumstances apply.

Applications to the Board for confirmation that proposed supervision arrangements meet
restricted practice requirements should be made by the supervising practitioner.
 

How does an Australian legal practitioner remove the condition of restricted practice from their practising certificate once the period of supervised legal practice is complete?

Except in cases where a practitioner is making an application under s.50(7) of the Act for an
exemption from restricted practice requirements (refer above), a practitioner who has
completed the required period of supervised legal practice is required to lodge a “Form 5:
Application to Remove Supervised Legal Practice Statutory Condition from Practising
Certificate”, which can be found on the Board’s website: http://www.lpbwa.org.au/. Form 5
requires the supervising practitioner to certify that the restricted practitioner was supervised
in accordance with the Board’s Supervised Legal Practice Guidelines. Alternatively, a letter
from the supervising practitioner/s can be attached to the Form 5. The practitioner’s original
practising certificate should be returned to the Board with the Form 5.
 

Legal Practice Board’s Contact Details

The Board’s contact details are:
Legal Practice Board of Western Australia
Kings Building
Level 5, 533 Hay Street
PERTH WA 6000

Postal address:
PO Box 5720
St Georges Terrace
PERTH WA 6831

Telephone: (08) 6211 3600
Facsimile: (08) 9325 2743
E-mail: general@lpbwa.com

Should you require further assistance please direct your enquiry to the Board’s Admissions
and Registrations Coordinator, Ms Deb MacDonald dmacdonald@lpbwa.com.


These Guidelines were approved by the Admissions and Registration Committee of the
Legal Practice Board on 5 August 2015