Establishing a New Legal Practice

There are four ways to practise the profession of the law in South Australia:

  • As an employed practitioner:
    o Employed in a legal practice; or
    o Employed by an organisation that does not provide legal services (‘in-house’).
  • As a sole practitioner or barrister;
  • As a director of an Incorporated Legal Practice;
  • As a partner of a partnership.

If you are establishing a new legal practice in South Australia, or a South Australian office of an existing interstate legal practice, and you will not practise using a corporate structure, you need to lodge a Form H. The details on that form are required for various regulatory purposes and also to enable the new practice to be issued with an L Code.  The form must be lodged prior to commencing practice.  You are also required to complete a Practice Profile for the purposes of insurance.  That Profile can be downloaded here.

Statutory Requirements

The regulatory requirements for incorporated legal practices (ILPs) engaging in legal practice in South Australia are contained in Schedule 1 of the Legal Practitioners Act 1981 (Act). 

Clause 4 of Schedule 1 of the Act requires all ILPs intending to provide legal services in South Australia to provide notice via the approved form and pay the prescribed fee. This includes:

      •       South Australian ILPs; and

      •       Interstate ILPs providing legal services in South Australia on a fly-in/fly-out basis.  

South Australian ILPs also have to comply with other Schedule 1 requirements with respect to legal practitioner directors, professional indemnity insurance, and auditing requirements (among other things).

Interstate ILPs also have to comply with the interstate practice and practitioner requirements contained in Division 3A of the Act which includes the requirement to provide notification of an office in South Australia.

Breaches of Clause 4

An SA or Interstate ILP which commences providing legal services in South Australia without providing the Notice and paying the Prescribed Fee pursuant to Clause 4 of Schedule 1 of the Act may be in default of Clause 4, the consequences of which might be:

      •       the imposition of a maximum penalty of $50,000; and

      •       inability to recover fees or costs incurred during the breach; and

      •       liability to repay money paid to it for legal services provided during the breach.

South Australian ILPs

ILPs with a company address and office in South Australia, and which provide legal services through legal practitioners holding South Australian practising certificates (South Australian ILPs), should provide notice pursuant to Clause 4 by completing and submitting Form G (Notice of Intention to Start Providing Legal Services – SA ILPs).

On receipt of the completed Form G the Society will issue an invoice for the Prescribed Fee. On payment of the prescribed fee, the ILP will be considered to have completed the Clause 4 notification process.

Other statutory requirements for South Australian ILPs include:

      •       Prohibition of non-legal services and businesses (Clause 2 of Schedule 1).

      •       At least 1 legal practitioner director holding an SA practising certificate (Clause 8 of Schedule 1).

      •       Professional indemnity insurance (Clause 12 of Schedule 1).

      •       Disqualified persons (Clause 18 of Schedule 1).

      •       Audit of ILPs (Clause 19 of Schedule 1).

      •       Participate in the SA Legal Practitioners Professional Indemnity Insurance Scheme (see section 19 and 52 of the Act).  For information about the Scheme please click here. 

South Australian ILPs may practise in partnership (clause 3A of Schedule 1). South Australian ILPs wanting to practise in partnership must provide notice and pay the prescribed fee before doing so. New South Australian ILPs will comply with the notice requirement by completing and submitting Form G (see above). Existing South Australia ILPs that have provided notice of intention to provide legal services in South Australia pursuant to Clause 4 of Schedule 1 but have not practised in partnership and have not provided notice of doing so pursuant to Clause 4A of Schedule 1 can provide the required notice by completing and submitting Form P (Notice of Intention to Practise in Partnership – SA ILPs).

Legal Practitioner Directors of South Australian ILPs should familiarise themselves with Schedule 1 of the Act to ensure that they are familiar with the entire range of professional obligations that apply to them. 

Interstate ILPs

ILPs with a company address outside South Australia, and which intend to provide legal services in South Australia through legal practitioners holding interstate (non-SA) practising certificates on a fly-in/fly-out basis, (Interstate ILPs), should provide notice pursuant to Clause 4 by completing and submitting Form U (Notice of Intention to Start Providing Legal Services – Interstate ILPs).

Section 23D of the Act also requires interstate legal practices (including ILPs) providing legal services through interstate PC holders on a fly-in/fly-out basis to provide notice of the establishment of an office in South Australia. Form U (Notice of Intention to Start Providing Legal Services – Interstate ILPs) also constitutes notice by interstate ILPs for this purpose.
If you are commencing as a Barrister you need to lodge a Form F and a Barrister Practice Profile.

Practice Management Directory

The Practice Management Directory provides links and resources for commencing and managing your practice. The Directory can be found here.

Small Practice Kit

Members of the Society have access to a kit that provides in depth guidance and advice in relation to establishing a small practice.  The kit contains guidance in relation to complying with obligations and minimum requirements, but also provides information in relation to varying ways of practising and comments on best practices.
The kit is available to Members here.  To find out more about becoming a member of the Society, click here.

Further Enquiries

If you have any further queries, contact the Ethics and Practice Unit at ethicsandpractice@lawsocietysa.asn.au or (08) 8229 0200.