The Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW) (LPUL), among other matters, sets out the parameters for the standard of engagement expected of law practices and in turn, solicitors.
Unless these standards are carefully considered and measures are adequately in place within a law practice, there is a real risk that law practices will fall foul of the LPUL whether by inadvertent non-compliance or administrative oversights.
One such ‘risk category’ for non-compliance includes the disclosures required of law practices by section 174 of the LPUL. Among other matters, under this section, a law practice is required to:
inform a client of any significant increases in fee estimates previously provided as soon as practicable.
obtain informed consent from a client for the proposed course of action regarding the conduct of the matter.
In cases of non-compliance under section 174, section 178(1) of the LPUL operates to:
treat the costs agreement between the law practice and the client as void;
not require the client to pay the legal costs until the law practice’s costs have been assessed; and
dictate that a law practice must not commence or maintain proceedings for the recovery of legal costs until the completion of the costs assessment.
In addition, such non-compliance is capable of constituting unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct against the principal or legal practitioner associated with the contravention.
Such provisions of the LPUL ought to be given the seriousness that they seek to inspire for compliance for every-day engagement between law practices and their clients. The consequences prescribed by the LPUL give an added incentive to solicitors to familiarise themselves (and the solicitors supervised by them) with the obligations prescribed by the LPUL and adopt a method of undertaking their legal practice that ensures strict compliance with the LPUL.