Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner: lawyer well-being project

In 2019 the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner interviewed people working across all parts of the legal profession to gain a deeper understanding of lawyers’ experiences of mental health and wellbeing over their careers.  These interviews were analysed and the resulting report ‘VLSB+C report on legal professionals’ reflections on wellbeing and suggestions for future reform’ is now available.

The report found that interview participants:

  • described being acculturated early in their career into a professional culture that frequently made it very difficult for the average individual to achieve wellbeing
  • identified a range of cultural and institutional factors that made it hard to improve the wellbeing of legal professionals
  • were positive about the direction of change in recent years and most, though not all, respondents conveyed optimism about a changing conversation regarding the wellbeing of legal professionals
  • had many ideas and suggestions for changes that could improve wellbeing within the profession

Some of the suggestions for improving wellbeing included embracing more comprehensive assistance programs like those in place overseas, increased collaboration with researchers, the increased promotion of counselling and debriefing programs, reforms to court practices, improved management training and the incorporation of a focus on wellbeing into CPD requirements.

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Victorian Legal Service Board research into vulnerability to miscounduct

In February 2016 the Victorian Legal Service Board and Commissioner entered into a research partnership with the University of Melbourne. The project was designed to help identify risk patterns and predict areas of concern within the Victorian profession. The study focused on 10 years of regulatory data on complaints (2005 to 2015) and looked at lawyer vulnerabilities and misconduct.

In April this year, lead researcher Dr Marie Bismark, published the results of that study in the International Journal of the Legal Profession.

The research paper ‘Vulnerability to legal misconduct: a profile of problem lawyers’ is now available.

Read the Board’s statement.

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Victoria Legal Services Board and Commissioner consultation on CPD

The Victoria Legal Services Board and Commissioner is currently accepting thoughts for their ongoing review on CPD in the state. The review is keen to hear from a broad range of lawyers and other stakeholders. The review is hoping to hear opinions on topics such as the levels CPD is aimed at, the role of regulators in CPD, effective learning styles, and topics that should be covered by CPD.

The Board has said “While most lawyers recognise the value of professional development in maintaining and enhancing their skills, there is concern that the current points-based system tends to drive a compliance-focused ‘box ticking’ exercise, rather than a more considered pursuit of learning and development suited to an individual lawyer’s particular needs.  We are also seeking to be more efficient, risk-based and outcomes-focused in our regulation of CPD compliance.”

See an executive summary of the issues being covered, or see the full issues paper.

Also see the consultation response, until 3 July.

Also see the Board’s comments.

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Victorian Legal Service Board report shows that sexual harassment in the legal workplace is common

On April 1st Victorian Legal Services Commissioner, Fiona McLeay, released data showing that sexual harassment in Victorian legal workplaces is common, and has a disproportionate effect on women.

Results showed that 1 in 3 respondents had experienced workplace harassment at some point in their career. As well as this there was a significant gender imbalance in the proportions with 61% of female respondents and 12% of male respondents reporting experiencing sexual harassment in Victorian legal workplaces.

The study was carried out in 2 surveys sent in August and September of 2019, the first was sent to all Victorian legal practitioners to collect data about their experiences of sexual harassment, whilst the second was sent to principals of law practices, to collect data on how their firms manage sexual harassment.

Ms McLeay has said: “Sexual harassment affects millions of people across Australia, and it is very concerning to me that so many lawyers in Victoria have experienced this.  And this is not historic data – for a majority of people reporting sexual harassment in our survey it occurred within the last five years, and for 25%, this was in the last 12 months. Of the survey respondents who had personally experienced harassment – nearly all of them were women, over half had five or less years’ experience at the time of the most recent incident, and many were either in junior roles or were not yet fully qualified”.

Ms McLeay highlighted that the Board was developing a strategy to move forward and tackle the issue saying, “As the regulator, we will be doing everything in our power to investigate and respond to complaints about sexual harassment. We have the power to investigate individual lawyers, as well as legal workplaces, where the data shows ‘hotspots’ of sexual harassment behaviour … Ultimately it’s up to all of us to change our culture.  How we operate as lawyers – the standards we hold ourselves to, the behaviours we expect from one another, what we tolerate and refuse to tolerate – are what defines us as a profession”. 

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More regulatory responses to COVID-19

Following on from last month’s newsletter, we’ve put together the following list to examine different regulator responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here it is interesting to note the development and changes, as regulators begin to get a grasp on the crisis and develop innovative responses to meet the changing environment. If you have any questions or best practice for the rest of the ICLR community, please do get in touch, and we will be happy to include any of these in the next newsletter.

Illinois has introduced executive order 2020-14, this satisfies notarial requirements that a person must “appear before” a notary public if a two-way audio-video connection is used. It also allows documents to be witnessed through the same technology.


The Law Society of New South Wales has decided to run it’s annual Law Careers Fair as an online event, rather than cancelling it. The event will use zoom to create virtual presentations, with individual video booths and company landing pages replacing exhibitor booths. More information about the event is available here. The Society has also decided to reduce its $410 membership fee to $10, for the 2020-2021 period, allowing members to redirect funds to priority areas during the crisis.


The Law Society of Hong Kong has announced that civil hearing will take place remotely, with all other non-essential court hearings currently adjourned.


The Legal Sector Affinity Group which is made up of all the legal supervisory authorities in the UK, including the Law Society, Bar Council, CILEx, and the Law Society of Scotland, has released an advisory note on preventing money laundering during the crisis. The note discussed the increased risk of money laundering at the current time and what checks can be put in place to mitigate this.


The Council for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales is to allow members to defer fee payments, following the near-complete standstill in the UK property market. Members will be given the option to defer paying their practice fee and compensation fund contributions for April, May and June, which can be paid off over the following 4-12 months.


The California State Bar Board of Trustees has written to the California Supreme Court offering options and recommendations for the June First-Year Law Students’ Exam and the July Bar Exam. Full letter available here. Whilst the State Bar of Califonia has put in place emergency measures waiving late payment fees, as well as extending payment deadlines for membership fees and compliance deadlines.


The Law Society of Ontario has cancelled the lawyer licensing examinations and the call to the bar ceremonies due to take place in June. The society has said that alternative summer/autumn examination dates are being explored and that the administrative aspect of the call to the bar process is being undertaken remotely, allowing students to progress with their careers, with a celebration planned later in the year.


The Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Law Society of Alberta have temporarily reduced the articling requirements to a minimum of 8 months, instead of the previous minimum of 12 months, preventing a backlog of articling students due to limits created by coronavirus. Full statements available here and here. The Law Society of Alberta has also introduced changes allowing articling students to work remotely, as well as giving instructions on the supervision students doing this.


The American Bar Association has created a “Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic”, which launched a website on the 3rd of April to provide resources and information on the ongoing crisis and how this relates to the law. Statement available here, website available here. The ABA has also backed calls to adopt emergency rules that would allow recent and upcoming law school graduates who cannot take a bar exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in the limited practice of law, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, these individuals would have until the end of 2021 to practice without passing the bar exam. They hope this would limit the disruption to students careers, and help prevent the widening of the access to justice gap.  Full statement available here.

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Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner

Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner
Jurisdiction: Victoria
Country: Australia
Regulatory function: The Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner is the disciplinary authority in Victoria.
Further information:
Victoria in the IBA Regulators Directory
Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner website
ICLR members: Log in for lists of associated ICLR members.
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80% of major jurisdictions use central qualifying assessment

In an international benchmarking exercise, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in England and Wales finds that almost 80% of the jurisdictions surveyed have a common assessment as part of lawyer qualification.

Press release on SRA website

Report on SRA website

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Australia’s uniform framework for a common legal services market

The Legal Profession Uniform Framework is designed to be applied by any Australian State or Territory to establish a common legal services market. New South Wales and Victoria adopted it from 1 July 2015, and other jurisdictions are encouraged to join the scheme and will be able to do so without the need for changes to the scheme.

Uniform framework explained on the Legal Services Council website

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