Bar cops criticism for experienced barrister’s failure to procure a practising certificate

Update, 2 June 2008: Consider also the somewhat similar case of Victorian Lawyers RPA Limited v MAF [1999] VLPT 12.  There, the solicitor practised for about one and a half years without either a practising certificate or professional indemnity insurance.  He blamed his book keeper, a defence which was partially successful.  He was reprimanded, and ordered to pay to the Legal Practitioners Liability Committee, the professional indemnity insurer of Victorian lawyers, the premium he would have had to pay had he done the right thing, along with the practising certificate fee he would have had to pay had he actually applied.Original post: In Victorian Bar v GSL [2006] VCAT 435, Judge Bowman, Peter Jopling and F Harrison of VCAT found a barrister guilty of misconduct and fined him $5,000 for practising without a practising certificate, with costs of $4,500 stayed for 3 months.He practiced as a barrister for four months without a practising certificate or professional indemnity insurance. He had been admitted for more than 25 years, and a barrister for 15 with a previously unblemished record as a senior junior with a commercial practice. He suffered domestic problems at the time, but had been warned by his clerk well in advance of the first of the four months to get his act together. VCAT gave the Bar a serve for not following up GSL’s failure to obtain a practising certificate:

“We also wish to make a further observation. We are disappointed with the Bar’s procedures, or lack thereof, in dealing with a situation such as this. That no followup steps were taken when [the barrister] had not renewed as at 1st July 2005 surprises us. No letter saying his right to practice was at an end was sent. No check was made as to whether he was continuing to practice. His Clerk was not notified that [the barrister] could no longer accept briefs. He still occupied chambers. No enquiry seems to have been made of Barristers Chambers Limited in this regard. All of these steps would have been relatively simple to take. We trust the situation will be rectified and appropriate procedures put in place.”

Simon Pitt was for the Victorian Bar, and the barrister was unrepresented.

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