Legal Practice Committee
The Legal Practice Committee is a disciplinary body, originally established under the Legal Profession Act 2004 and continued under the Legal Profession Act 2007, to hear and decide discipline applications lodged with them by the Commission.
The Committee hears the evidence and decides if the legal practitioner is guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and, if so, decides the appropriate penalty.
The Committee hears and decides less serious cases that do not involve 'professional misconduct' and will not result in the practitioner being ‘struck off’ the roll or suspended from practice (these matters must be heard by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal). It also hears and decides discipline applications involving law practice employees.
The Committee also has an advisory function. It monitors the effectiveness of the legal profession rules the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rule and the Barrister’s Rule, and makes recommendations to the Minister. These rules govern the standards of conduct expected of all solicitors, barristers and law practice employees in their practice of law in Queensland.
The Committee comprises seven people appointed by the Governor-in-Council: a Chairperson, two solicitors, two barristers, and two lay people who have a high level of experience and knowledge of consumer protection, business, public administration or another relevant area. The Committee appoints one of its members to be Deputy Chairperson.
When advising, any four committee members must be present. When hearing and deciding disciplinary action, three members must participate: the Chairperson or Deputy Chairperson, a solicitor or a barrister (depending on whether the complaint is about a solicitor or barrister) and a lay member.
Hearings before the Committee are open to the public unless the Committee decides otherwise due to the nature of the evidence. The Committee decides whether a legal practitioner is guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct - or whether a law practice employee is guilty of misconduct - and, if it does, can order:
- the practitioner or employee to be publicly (or in special circumstances, privately) reprimanded
- the practitioner pay a penalty of up to $10,000
- the practitioner’s practice pay a complainant compensation of up to $7500 if the practitioner’s unsatisfactory professional conduct has caused the complainant to suffer pecuniary loss
- the practitioner do or refrain from doing something in connection with their legal practice, be managed in a stated way for a stated period, or be subject to inspection by someone nominated by his or her professional body.
Additionally, the Committee must order legal practitioners it finds guilty to pay costs including the complainant’s costs and the Commission’s costs, unless it is satisfied ‘exceptional circumstances exist’.
Parties who are dissatisfied with a decision of the Committee can appeal to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.