On 1 July 2014 the Legal Profession Conduct Commissioner replaced the Legal Practitioners Conduct Board.
This change in organisation, made under the Act, introduces new professional standards for lawyers and gives the Commissioner broad powers (by comparison to the powers the Board had) when investigating and disciplining lawyers.
This initiative was led by the State’s Attorney-General to further improve and reform the disciplinary process that helps to regulate the conduct of the legal profession in South Australia.
Further information can be found in the official announcements released.
A number of changes have been made to the Act.
Key changes effective from 1 July 2014 include:
- Greater powers for the Commissioner and his office, both in relation to the way investigations are carried out, and the type of disciplinary action that the Commissioner can take.
- Greater flexibility in relation to decisions that can be made to improve responsiveness to complaints.
- Introduction of a public Register to publicise any serious disciplinary actions taken against lawyers.
- New definitions for the misconduct of lawyers to capture a wider range of possible misconduct, including a lawyer’s behaviour outside of the professional environment.
Complaints made before 1 July 2014
All current matters as at 30 June 2014 that were not finalised, have been transferred from the Board to the Commissioner. This includes:
- unresolved complaints
- incomplete investigations
- ongoing court proceedings.
Complaints made after 1 July 2014
- Conduct complaints
Conduct complaints received, and investigations that start after 1 July 2014 that relate to conduct before 1 July 2014, will be measured against the conduct definitions that were in place before 1 July 2014. If the conduct occurred on or after 1 July 2014, then the new conduct definitions introduced from 1 July 2014 will apply.
Regardless of when the conduct occurred, the Commissioner’s powers to deal with misconduct (whether it occurred before or after 1 July 2014) are now greater (than those of the former Board), so that appropriate disciplinary action can be taken quickly and efficiently.
- Overcharging complaints
Overcharging complaints received, and overcharging investigations that start, after 1 July 2014 will be dealt with under the Commissioner’s new powers effective 1 July 2014, regardless of when the relevant bill (invoice) was delivered to the client.
Staff employed by the former Board are now employed in the Commissioner’s office.
In most cases, complaints existing before 1 July 2014 will continue to be dealt with by the same staff member at the Commissioner’s office.
The Commissioner has retained the same contact details as the previous Board.