Practising Certificate Fees Survey Comments

(Edited as of 30-3-17)

  1. If practising certificate fees are increased, it will involve increases in charges to clients of legal services. The legal profession is already over-regulated in Victoria and the cost of regulation already too high with the costs of both practising certificate fees and compulsory insurance. It needs to be recognised that practitioners also pay an additional cost of being a member of the various legal professional associations (the LIV and/or VicBar), which do an excellent job of providing services to members (and the community) through CPD training, legal practice advice, health and well-being services, ethics training and advice, specialisation training and accreditation, referral services, practice area section membership and pro bono referral services (to name just a few). The legal profession stands apart from other professions in the way its highly respected professional associations so actively encourage their members to act professionally and ethically for the benefit of the community.  Any review of practising certificate fees must take this into account, with the aim of decreasing (rather than increasing) the cost of regulation over the longer term.
     
  2. A good deal of my fees are regulated by scale, eg Probate and Administration Rules, and Solicitor’s remuneration order. This means that, although I am bound by scales, the bottom line is less, because out of any costs received, I would have to pay additional practising levies. Unlike Banks, Governments and other business such as Telstra, power utilities, (e.g. over the counter fees for payment, fees on paper bills, duplicate statements etc.), I would not be allowed to just create a lump sum surcharge for every client who walked in the door, unlike government when it levied everyone on a bush fire levy and on the desalination plant.  Returns for a sole practitioner are mean as they stand, and will become worse, if outgoings keep rising.
     
  3. A new and distinct category for PC Fees for government lawyers should be considered. Unlike private practitioners, government lawyers are paid a set salary that cannot be varied dependent on number of clients or billable hours. Government lawyers are required to pay their own PC fees, so it should be kept to a minimum. I also query the extent that Government lawyers are needing to account for misconduct to the VLSB+C - I suspect this does not occur often, and so one would argue this is a further reason for Government lawyers paying lower PC fees. 
     
  4. Access to justice depends on affordable practitioners who are available to the public. Increases in regulatory fees pull away from affordable practice and make public access more difficult.
     
  5. After 36 years of practice myself, and seeing many of my colleagues with equal time and some even up to 50 years in practice, I am of the view that there ought be a time when these fees are forgiven in the remaining years of practice before retirement. It would help in encouraging the older members of the profession to stay at work and assist, in particular, in mentoring the younger members and assisting in preventing claims against professional insurance which might otherwise be made. These benefits would be significant.
     
  6. An increase in fees just encourages more employers to pass on the cost to the lawyer themselves.
     
  7. Any increase in fees would be prohibitive for practitioners like me, who barely undertake 3 conveyances per year and only receive trust money that is dealt with in a transit way (i.e. passed onto payees of cheques immediately and not placed in a trust account). As such, I hold no trust account. Fees for practitioners like myself cannot, and should not, increase. Any increase would be unfair and force me to hand in my practising certificate. 
     
  8. Any increase in PC fees or LPLC fees impinges on a small practice like mine. I am also paying off past debt, so any current increase of any fees causes more financial pain.
     
  9. Any of the increases proposed will have a very significant impact on Community Legal Centres, which have no capacity to recoup the costs of Practising Certificates, are likely to have more part-time solicitors and are facing funding cuts.
     
  10. As a community legal service, any rise in practising certificate costs will be a significant impact on our service delivery to vulnerable people. I hold trust authority because we very occasionally handle transit money, and so the additional cost to the service makes us technically compliant with the LPUL, but is not of any financial benefit to us. It would be good to consider a different tier of PC costing for not-for-profit welfare organisations such as ours.
     
  11. As a general comment, practitioners who do not hold trust authorisation often benefit from the trust authorisations held by others.  An increase in the fees for a practising certificate of this magnitude is prejudicial to practitioners (usually women) who are working two days or less whilst raising children, particularly the self-employed. 
     
  12. As a practitioner of 15 years who runs my own small suburban practice, with 2-3 lawyers at any given time, a significant increase to PC fees will only add more burden to my already stretched capacity to financially run this practice. In addition to PC fees, CPD costs and LPLC fees, as a migration lawyer, I am also required to pay an additional $1595 for each lawyer as a result of dual regulation with the MARA. When all these "costs" add up, it is an incredible burden on a small 1 partner practice.  
     
  13. As a small business owner, the proposed increase in fees is substantial and would most definitely stop me from employing more lawyers.
     
  14. As a sole practitioner earning well under six figures, every additional or increase in regulated fees is potentially detrimental to continued practice.
     
  15. As a sole practitioner with two employee solicitors, the impact of a fee increases makes it less attractive to employ qualified professionals. Many non-qualified paralegal/assistants are able to conduct work under supervision. Taking into account the professional indemnity insurance and the fees for practising certificates, it would make me less likely to grow the practice and more likely to scale down. 
     
  16. As a suburban lawyer, I feel we are neglected. The decisions made are ostensibly for the city firms who can always pass on higher costs etc. to clients. We have significant difficulty even raising fees by a minimum amount.
     
  17. As an in-house Corporate Lawyer, I feel that there should be a distinction not only between lawyers who hold trust authorisation and those that do not, but also between lawyers that work in private practice, public/government practice and corporate practice in terms of pricing for practising certificates with the pricing reflective of the cost to regulate these specific types of practitioners.
     
  18. As government lawyers as a group have a reduced level of complaints from the public and thus a reduced level of involvement by the VLSB+C, there should be an additional category of certificate attracting a lower fee.
     
  19. At present, legal practice is over regulated in relation to costs in particular. Regulation of trust accounts is satisfactory. The cost of regulating legal practice could be reduced if over regulation is reduced and fees payable for practice can be reduced or may not increase as quickly as they may otherwise have to, so that regulating costs can be recovered in whole or to the desired extent.
     
  20. Charge out rates in country Victoria are lower than in the city and such substantial increases on the cost of opening the doors will jeopardise legal practice and lead to an increase in the use of unqualified clerks for legal services, which results in a lower standard of legal practice.
     
  21. Consideration needs to be had for law practices that have trust authorisation, but do not operate a trust account (such as my practice) and firms which operate a trust account but the level of trust activity is not high. Perhaps, there should be a higher PC fee for partners/solicitors at firms with trust accounts and the fee should be based on the amount of activity that goes on within the trust account. This would be difficult to implement and monitor, but may be a more fair resolution for sole practitioners/small businesses which already have significant expenses in comparison to turnover.
     
  22. Controls over the ordinary (non-professional) business operations of being a lawyer in business together with proposed higher fee increase costs will have an impact on an already very constrained (by regulation) ability to get paid because of those controls (e.g. lower than commercially realistic default interest on non-payers and cost recovery processes and hoops to jump through making for lengthy delays) will only exacerbate the ability to run the business of being a lawyer.
     
  23. Corporate and government lawyers should have even cheaper certificates - no claims or trust risk at all.
     
  24. Country practitioners and, more specifically, the law firms are under extreme cost pressures and, quite frankly, most are not profitable. Further imposts by the VLSB on lawyers should be resisted. 
     
  25. CPD programs are already a considerable yearly expense; to also significantly increase PC fees will add to the financial strains of operating a legal practice making it very difficult to small businesses. 
     
  26. Create a not for profit PC. These proposed increased will come directly out of the bottom line of already cut CLC budgets.
     
  27. Current fees more than fair.
     
  28. Currently over regulated. The fee increase will impact on my ability to start my own practice, which is a future ambition.
     
  29. Every practitioner should have a trust account in case a client wants or needs funds to be held for a specific purpose, and the practitioner should always be in a position to do so and, secondly, it helps the practitioner to hold funds for costs if the client is not known well or is a bad payer. I have little in my trust account, and often nothing, but it is always needed sometime. I find it hard to believe a lawyer can practice without the comfort of a trust account. Clients' money must always be protected, and sometimes I wonder about lawyers without that facility available at all times.
     
  30. Fee increases will cause financial strain on small regional practices which provide, of necessity, a significant pro bono and community service to small communities in regional areas. It's the community that is ultimately disadvantaged.
     
  31. Fees should allow for retired/part time practitioners.
     
  32. Fees should also be proportionate to the practitioner and their experience/position/wage.
     
  33. Fees should not increase. Employees’ solicitors would be compromised if fees increased.
     
  34. For a small practice firm like mine, even the current practising fee is excessive. Any further increase will significantly impact my capacity to practise, and force me to think about discontinuing my practice altogether. Given the years of studies and skills I have devoted to the legal field, that would be a shame and I hope the Legal Services Board will take a sympathetic view of the small suburban practitioners.
     
  35. For sole practitioners with income under $100 000, such an increase is significant.
     
  36. Government lawyer, don't have clients accept for VICPOL.
     
  37. Have fees for community legal centre lawyers been considered? 
     
  38. I already have the same annual cost of CPD compliance as full-time practitioners and an increase in PC fees would be onerous.
     
  39. I am a first year lawyer and earn $25 per hour; a fee increase of any kind affects me greatly as I don't earn very much.
     
  40. I am a government lawyer. I have very strong views on the equity of charging in-house government lawyers the same practising certificate fee as private practice lawyers. The cost of regulation should be covered by both, but the risks that private practitioners have are very different to government lawyers.
     
  41. I am a lawyer working for a non-profit organisation (union) which provides legal services to union members. We do not bill for our work. Our small team services around 20,000 members who would otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance. Currently, my organisation is proactive in taking on junior graduate lawyers and fostering their development, which I feel is very beneficial to the continuation and advancement of the legal profession given the glut of law graduates in the market looking for work. A large increase in fees would be a significant obstacle to my employer continuing to take this approach to hiring and fostering development of young lawyers, and may even threaten the jobs of the current (quite small) team that we have.
     
  42. I am a sole practitioner. I need to have trust authorisation, but I do not operate a trust account. The increase in fees should not apply to me.
     
  43. I am a volunteer solicitor at a community legal service. I would like to be able to obtain a practising certificate at no cost.
     
  44. I am also regulated by the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority when I provide immigration advice and assistance.  The compliance costs are prohibitive for a small practice.
     
  45. I am an employee lawyer at a CLC. Any increase to practising certificates has an immediate effect on our already meagre budgets, and will have an impact on the services that we provide.
     
  46. I am concerned about the possible effect of the proposed fee increases, particularly on smaller firms and sole practitioners and those who practise part-time. I do not think the increases are reasonable or justified.
     
  47. I am strongly opposed to the proposed fee increases. They are dramatically higher than CPI. In my view, they are unjustifiable. I am staggered by the assertion that it costs in excess of $21 million per year to regulate the legal profession in Victoria. I would be interested to see a breakdown of what the more than $21 million is spent on each year. The suggestion that fees could increase by nearly 60% in a single year is patently unreasonable. Law firms cannot pass the cost of those fee increases onto their clients. Law firms are operating in a saturated and highly competitive market. Firms are all experiencing significant downward pressure on fees. The increase will form a significant component of the overhead of each law firm by nearly 60%, and will have a substantial impact on the profitability of many law firms.  Most law firms in Victoria are small practices of less than 10 lawyers. I expect that, in many cases, the proposed increase in fees will be the tipping point that causes law firms who are considering whether or not to hire a young lawyer to decide not to do so. 
     
  48. I believe all fee structure options proposed by the VLSB+C will disproportionately negatively affect sole practitioners practising without trust authorisation, and will push many of them out of practise, thereby reducing the overall number of practitioners in Victoria. The sole practitioners in this category, I believe, would be mostly mothers with small children who are not able to take full-time employment in law firms due to their family commitments. As such, the fee rise will again hit such female lawyers the hardest and further reduce the number of women practising law. As an alternative fee structure, I would suggest the VSLB+C adopt the same fee structure as the LPLC insurance premiums which is based on estimated annual income with the provision of adjusting the fee during the year should the income exceed practitioner's initial income estimate. This fee structure is well tested and is far more equitable that the options currently proposed. In addition, heavier penalties could be given to those practitioners against whom complaints are lodged - perhaps regardless of the merit of a complaint, some sort of fee may become payable by such practitioners (similarly to the concept of excess in insurance even where accident happened without a fault of the insured), so that instead of all practitioners being asked to pay for the misconduct of some, it is those who commit misconduct or are accused of  committing misconduct that have to pay for the regulatory processes applicable to them.   
     
  49. I cannot understand what the increase is for.
     
  50. I do a lot of free or very low cost work for those who can't afford to pay much, as well as for the local sports club. After paying fixed costs and CPD each year, I usually break even or make a few thousand dollars. I am happy with this situation, as I get personal satisfaction from helping people who otherwise could not access legal advice, but any rise in my fixed costs would mean I could not continue to operate the way that I do and I will have to stop practising law. As I am 54 and have been self-employed for 17 years, I would find it pretty hard to get another job in law and will probably end up changing career or, more likely, being unhappily unemployed. I think I provide quite a valuable service to my friends, family, neighbours and community and I would be very sad if I couldn't continue.
     
  51. I don't understand any clear rational explanation for the remarkable increase in proposed fees.
     
  52. I have a few long standing older clients at the lower end of the socio-economic scale.  If the practising certificate fees get too high, I will cease to practise and they will be seeking legal aid, free legal advice or the services of the CAB, therefore, shifting the load onto services that are stretched. I make a lot more money in IT than legal practice, and my practice is not very profitable and close to a community service.
     
  53. I have a practising certificate authorising the receipt of Trust Money, but I do not have a trust account and have not needed to receive trust money other than for the purposes of "pass through cheques".  It makes no sense to me that I have constantly have to pay a practising certificate fee which presumes the receipt of trust money and the only trust money I have received is passed through cheques. It is my view that the cost of administering my practice in the regulatory framework is no more than the cost of regulating a practice which does not have authority to receive trust monies. It is certainly costs far less and is a lower risk to the community and practices that do have trust accounts. I, therefore, suggest that practices that never receive trust money or only receive pass through cheques should be treated the same and the fee for them should be less than practices which have full trust accounts. 
     
  54. I have been practising since 1969, and there seems little consideration for senior lawyers and the cost of maintaining a certificate.
     
  55. I have no idea why the LSB is seeking the increases or why it needs to do so.
     
  56. I have retired from income earning practice. All the work I do is now pro bono. I maintain a full practising certificate to enable me to provide a complete and independent service to vulnerable clients on a pro bono basis. I urge that any proposed fee increase take account of a person who works solely in a pro bono capacity, and who bears all their own expenses and costs, including the practising certificate fee and PI insurance cost.
     
  57. I may decide to retire from practising law if the expenses are increased.
     
  58. I only have limited participation now and cost of keeping my registration is crucial.
     
  59. I pay the fee for my practising certificate out of my own pocket; it is not an expense of the firm and I am a junior employee solicitor. Any increase to the fees applicable will come directly out of my own pocket.
     
  60. I provide training, not legal advice per se. I have kept my practising certificate in case anyone said I was providing legal advice in my training content. The cost of doing so is already substantial.
     
  61. I provided a response that practising certificates authorised to receive trust moneys ought to be the same cost as practising certificates not so authorised. I gave this response because, essentially, there is no reason for there to be a difference in the fees. Practitioners holding a practising certificate pay for that privilege in other ways - e.g. fidelity fund, auditor's fees, etc. 
     
  62. I run a conveyancing practice. I will be much less likely to employ law grads if the PC fees increase much. We charge low, fixed fees so the burden of PCs, LIV Membership, PI insurance and CPD (all of which I pay) is already significant.
     
  63. I think I practice in the very low fee area of the industry. These kinds of practices play quite an important role in servicing clients who would otherwise, just not access a lawyer or who would just ignore the law. The burden of these higher fees may materialise in the community in other forms, which may be more costly in the end result.
     
  64. I think you should charge a high practising certificate fee and include the CPDs in it... that way all the practitioners who don’t go to CPDs because it is too expensive or they can’t be bothered will go... it will increase the standards within the profession
     
  65. I understand that with trust authorisation, comes additional risks and, therefore, an increase in insurances. So, I understand why the fee for such a practising certificate might need to be higher than an ordinary practising certificate. However, I do not see the need for fees to rise, if the profession gets no additional benefit from the rise.
     
  66. I work at a trade union as an industrial officer. The union employs a number of industrial officers, the majority of whom are solicitors and some who are not. If the fees are increased, I anticipate that the need for industrial lawyers to continue hold a current practising certificate will be reviewed.
     
  67. I work for a CLC that is struggling to maintain the current number of lawyers we have due to funding constraints…at least 2 positions will go in July unless we are successful in obtaining further grants we are currently applying for, so a big increase in fees will have a major impact on our CLC and all others who would be in the same situation as ours.
     
  68. I work for a not for profit provider of legal services. We do not charge client fees. Any increase in costs associated with the right to practice cannot be passed on to clients. An increase in the cost of practising, therefore, results in a reduction in service delivery. Practitioners in not-for-profit environments should, therefore, not be paying the same rate as practitioners in profit environments. There is a long history of Pro Bono in the law. Why shouldn't this extend to providing free practising certificates for not for profit providers of legal services?
     
  69. I work in Government providing policy and legislation advice/services. My employer has never paid for my practising certificate. A significant increase in fees would probably encourage me to drop my practising certificate and the LIV membership.
     
  70. I work part-time, I pay for my own practising certificate, and CPD. These items together cost more than what I earn.
     
  71. I would like to see an exclusion of the requirement to hold a certificate with trust moneys where the only "trust moneys" which may be dealt with (about once every two years) is receipt and passing on of third party cheques to our client for legal costs payable by the other side.
     
  72. I would like to see what the true justification is for this increase. It makes no sense to me why fee increases should be as high as they are being proposed.
     
  73. I would still need to hold the authorisation to deal with trust money, as I am a director of my firm. Our PI fees, the cost of practising certificates for our employees, the Limitation of Liability Scheme and paying our employees LIV membership etc. all adds up to an enormous amount of money…and it all needs to be paid roughly at the same time each year … [it] has a huge impact on our cash flow as we are a small law firm (4 lawyers including the directors) and 2 other staff. The additional cost for fees for practising certificates is, in my opinion, unfair and unnecessary.
     
  74. If, owing to administrative oversight, a practising certificate fee is paid late it should be backdated with a penalty. Lawyers should not be made to pay back all their clients in the case of a genuine mistake. Also, the LSB should be mandated to notify a practitioner by telephone or post if their practising certificate expires.
     
  75. If practising certificate fees increase, it will be more difficult for graduates to gain employment as solicitors/lawyers. It is already very difficult, as some firms would rather hire paralegals and/or clerks (i.e. have a law degree, but you don't have a practising certificate).      
     
  76. If the proposal is to significantly raise the fee (more than 10%), then there should be a proper explanation about why that is happening.
     
  77. If there are to be increases in practising certificate fees, the fees should be on a scale based on the size of the practice and, if necessary, some sort of means test. It is unfair that small suburban practices have to pay exactly the same fees as large city firms.
     
  78. I'm a government lawyer currently working in a role that is not strictly 'practising law'. A lot of government lawyers have come into the system in recent years with the new requirements under the Uniform Law. The fee increases will be a significant impost on government law practices, which are, by their nature, very low risk because they do not provide services to the public.
     
  79. I'm employed in a NGO and, therefore, my answers are based on what would happen if I was to return to [being a] self-employed private practitioner.
     
  80. In terms of effective regulation, please eliminate auditors. They are costly and have never (or rarely) discovered a defalcation. History shows that inspectors are much more effective at detecting defalcation.  An increase in PC fees (for those holding trust accounts) to fund more inspectors would be more acceptable if the cost of auditors were eliminated.
     
  81. In the community, an increase in costs is usually acceptable if there is a corresponding increase in benefit to the community. I am appalled that there is a suggestion that the practising certificate fees should be increased by nearly 60% especially when there is no corresponding benefit to a practitioner as a consequence. Most suburban general legal practices rely heavily on conveyancing to sustain their cash flow. It would be almost impossible to run such a practice without a trust account, so that is not an option. It is only fair that we should all pay the same fee, especially as in my experience there are practitioners who are handling trust money without actually operating a trust account. There should be more concern about this fact than penalising those of us who do operate a trust account which is constantly scrutinised also at our own expense. Consideration needs to be given to the audit fees payable by those of us who run a trust account which adds to the overall cost of running the trust account while giving some protection to the public.
     
  82. Increases generally are not justifiable. With the technology currently in place, costs relating to administration are less. Increases follow the general antiquated rule that every year or period of review there should be an increase regardless of cost reductions. Certificates relating to trust have attached to them added responsibility and costs to the individual which as mentioned in the survey, cannot be appropriately offset through increases in clients fees.
     
  83. It doesn't really apply to me as I hold a volunteer practising certificate, but I understand that the profession should be well regulated … but [I am] not sure who should pay for that ... who pays for other profession’s regulatory bodies?
     
  84. It impacts on the ability to hire employee lawyers.  Economically, with an increase in practising certificates, one would be better of employing paralegals than solicitors which is detrimental to our profession. 
     
  85. It is 45 years since I was issued a practising certificate. I am largely retired. Much of my work is now pro bono.
     
  86. It seems highly unreasonable and unnecessary to increase the fees - law firms will be forced to either pass on these expenses to clients, which unnecessarily increase their legal fees. Further, it would affect the firm's willingness to hire additional lawyers or to continue to employ existing lawyers unless strictly necessary.
     
  87. It seems that the costs of regulation in Victoria are significantly higher than other comparable states, from what I have read, NSW seem to be far more efficient. I often wonder whether there is both a Legal Services Board and Commissioner. I cannot see why the job of regulation could not be incorporated into the role of the LIV and utilise the existing infrastructure within the LIV.
     
  88. It seems the costs keep rising, but for the sake of some to be able to pass on these costs there are a lot of us who simply are finding it more difficult to make ends meet; it’s competitive, phones, printing costs continue to rise but the consumer can’t be asked to bear all costs rises as competition comes not only from other practices, you have conveyancers that have almost wiped out practices doing this work and if you can’t manage IT then you have to have this updated and monitored at all times to lodge most documents in almost every area.
     
  89. It will impact upon future employment prospects of current employee lawyers.
     
  90. It would be interesting to see if the VLSB+C is operating as efficiently as possible before they seek to recover costs from the profession.
     
  91. Lawyers who hold trust money are more likely to get into strife, so should pay more. Current fees are too high for return.
     
  92. Leave as is.
     
  93. Legal practitioners holding a practising certificate and working solely pro bono (significant community benefit) should only have to pay a very small amount for a practising fee. Please note I still have to complete CPD, which is at a considerable cost which is not recoverable.
     
  94. Legal practitioners without trust authorisation should not be subsidising those who have such responsibility, nor should we be paying for "coverage" which is not required! 
     
  95. Like every industry, an increase (based on CPI or other regulatory increases) is probably justified if it’s actually justified and a fair and accurate representation of the true increase - the proposed scale seems out of proportion.
     
  96. Most legal practice rules should be abolished (they are not necessary and add significant costs), similar to the UK model, in particular, professional costs should be governed by normal contractual principles.
     
  97. My firm assists vulnerable migrant clients on a reduced-fee basis. This is an important service in the migration area, where access to justice is limited by a severe lack of almost any public funding and where clients have limited financial resources. Our ability to offer a low-cost service to these clients would be adversely affected by a significant practising certificate fee increase.
     
  98. My practice is part-time; I am semi-retired and my Trust Account, though necessary for Estates, is little-used. I have no capacity to absorb any sizeable increase in fees.
     
  99. My responses are that an increase in fees would not impact my decision to hold a practising certificate are simply because without a certificate I cannot run my business, so I have no choice. The costs would have a significant impact on the costs of running my business, but I would have no choice but to pay them. The proposed increases under Options 1 and 2 are manifestly excessive.
     
  100. My view is that it is not a significant increase for practitioners who are not authorised to hold trust accounts. 
     
  101. No justification for increase in fees. We pay enough in fees already.
     
  102. No reason for such a significant increase in fees. Smaller criminal law practices where majority of work is VLA funded will be hit hard by increases, as there would be no scope to 'increase professional fees' for clients to cater for increase.
     
  103. Not sure what we are getting for paying the increased fee. I also don't understand why having a trust account means you need to pay so much more.        
     
  104. Our industry is over-regulated and under-serviced by its professional bodies. I do not object to paying higher fees if those fees are to be put to services and advocacy on behalf of the profession, rather than just additional regulation.
     
  105. Please note that the practice in which I operate is a government legal practice. The fees for practising certificates of all of the lawyers in this practice are paid for by government and not the individuals.
     
  106. Practising certificate fees should not be increased. The proposed increase is drastic and I doubt that my practice would see any benefit in the increase. Although my employer pays for my certificate, I am concerned that the increase will put sole and community practitioners at a disadvantage.
     
  107. Practising certificates are paid for Government lawyers in our State Government department. Higher fees may place this arrangement in doubt if those fees place too much pressure in internal budgets, meaning lawyers will need to pay for their own. There is no capacity to recoup costs from internal clients as we do not charge fees.
     
  108. Practising certificates without trust authorisation needs to be kept low for solicitors who are not practising on a full-time basis but want to volunteer, for example, including recent graduates attempting to secure a job who don't have funds available for the high cost of a certificate
     
  109. Query whether regulation is for the protection of the public or the benefit of the practitioner. If for the public, it should be a public expense - not cost recovery.
     
  110. Regulation should be based on demonstrated need, not perception, not for regulations sake. We should have an evergreen PC - no renewal fees!
     
  111. Should be a lower fee for casual or part-time practice for older practitioners.
     
  112. [I am a] sole practitioner practicing via a company; no trust money; only one matter left; fees about equal to practising certificate fee.
     
  113. Sole practitioners in country Victoria are doing it tough. The clients you do get don't want to pay city prices and often don't want to pay at all! I think there should be a different rate for trust account holders and for both categories (Trust Account and no Trust Account) there should be a concession rate for country practitioners.
     
  114. [A]s a practitioner in a mid-size firm, I have no idea whether we have capacity to pass on the increase to clients.
     
  115. Suburban and country practitioners are a dying part of the profession, yet we are at the coal face of providing a vital service to normal people who are not part of the big end of town but who, nevertheless, require basic legal services. Don't expense us out of the system!
     
  116. Such a big increase would impact on our discussion to grow our firm, so please don't increase it. Allowing to pay in instalments would also help. We would still have a trust fund account, but again the increase would impact us.
     
  117. Thank you for the opportunity to provide input to the LIV on this issue. I hold a "principal with trust" PC in order to be able to handle transit cheques only. I do not operate a trust account as it is not worth my while for what is then involved in administering a trust account. Accordingly, it seems unfair that I should pay the same for a PC with trust where a trust account is operated. There are additional costs to operate a trust account so they can allow for the regulation of trust.     It is costly for me to maintain a PC just so I can do a little work around a young family and I would not appreciate soaring PC fees. Increased fees would not impact on my applying for a PC with trust because I need that to legally do my work, but it would impact on me financially. I don't mind paying a little bit more for a PC with trust vs PC without trust, as it presently applies, if that is not just "for the sake of it" and keeps overall PC costs down, but I'm not sure if a huge discrepancy between the 2 PC types would be warranted. A "PC with trust but without trust account" category could be considered, but not if it adds to admin and hence costs. A single PC fee could be good if that keeps admin and hence costs down, but not if it increases PC fees way beyond what they are now. Not all solicitors earn big bucks and we have to be mindful of what we charge clients - we can't just pass on all of our increased costs by raising our legal fees. Solicitors have CPD and insurance costs too and the LIV would surely lose numbers and revenue from LIV events if PC fees sky rocket. Are there ways to make regulation of the profession more efficient and thereby avoid a PC fee hike?
     
  118. The easy ability for clients to argue about costs is probably balanced by the number of people engaged by the VLSB to solve the issues which they do well. It would be useful to compare LIV costs previously per head with VLSB charges. 
     
  119. The cost depends a little on age of practice. While I remain of an age that a big city law firm wants me and will pay for the costs, then this is not an issue for me.  But I can foresee that once I am older and no longer suited to big city practice, then these costs could impact on my ability to continue to practice in a smaller environment.
     
  120. The cost of having a trust account is already high as the audit costs and time away from the practice in admin is significant. Having a trust account is a service to the client as it assists matters to resolve. I am really struggling to keep the doors open, and find additional costs a severe impact as I have returned to work after a period at home with children. The cost of CPD is also very expensive as it is a formal requirement - hard to get private study verified. It must be remembered that this is one of a number of significant costs imposed on what is essentially a small business. Family law clients (such as mine) are paying out of after tax dollars and I can't charge more. I do a lot of pro bono, and the more overheads I have to cover, the less pro-bono I can afford and the more I have to push clients for payment of outstanding accounts.   
     
  121. The cost of professional indemnity insurance is a far greater impost and fails to reward those practitioners with a no claims history.
     
  122. The costs of insurance and compliance to small practices of 5 or less employed solicitors is a huge barrier for growth. The second I hired a second employee my insurance alone increased 7-fold! To now increase practising certificate costs, particularly when there are so many shonky businesses out there providing pseudo-legal advice is really infuriating. What's the point in being a lawyer anymore?
     
  123. The current fee structure is fine.
     
  124. The current problems with legal profession regulation are really about the increasing costs of day-to-day compliance; the multiple bodies to which a practitioner is accountable (and, in the case of sole practitioners, limited power or resources to delegate internal control processes); and the relatively high cost of audit and insurance. Practising certificate fees are a small consideration - though I note there has been no inspection of this firm's records for over seven years, despite paying the additional fee which covers this aspect and the costs of audit. On top of that, the benefits of holding a practising certificate in dealing with government in general are being whittled away by privacy and automation, such that the supposedly trusted and regulated profession has no accelerated right of audience.
     
  125. The current regulation is onerous. Any increase in regulation and compliance adds to the cost of operating a practice. Any increase in practising certificate fees adds to the cost of operating a practice.
     
  126. The excessive regulation of the legal profession has already led to solicitors looking to alternative ways of practising their profession. The primary example of this can be seen in the field of conveyancing, and appearances before employment tribunals.  Should the practising certificate fees be significantly increased, this will be yet a further factor to consider in deciding whether to (i) continue to operate with the existing burdensome regulatory regime where I have to have a client sign a costs agreement and make costs disclosure in any case where I perform more than two hours of work; or (ii) cease legal practice and represent clients as a non-lawyer advocate, before employment and anti-discrimination tribunals, passing the reduced costs on to clients, whilst avoiding the need to have trust authorisation and providing the flexibility to charge contingency fees (for example).  I firmly believe that more lawyers will consider the potential for operating outside the existing regulatory regime of further costs of regulation are imposed upon them, and the price of legal services will increase, reducing access to legal services within the community.
     
  127. The extent of increase sought seems to be particularly significant.
     
  128. The fee increases are too extreme. The fee should be the same for trust or non-trust.  We already have to pay extra for having a trust, auditor fees etc.
     
  129. The firm would consider making employees pay their own practising certificate fees, and just retain one principal with trust authority. I am aware of other firms which require employees to change their practising certificates to remove the trust authority, so that the firm pays the cheaper fees - this may be one reason to make one standard rate for all certificates. However, I do see that regulating trust accounts is a significant cost to the overall regulation. Finally, the reason I do not think that the regulation is great is because many solicitors get away with unprofessional and marginal behaviour. There is a lot of bullying of fellow professionals which is uncalled for, and a lot of solicitors who unnecessarily increase legal fees by dragging matters out. None of this can really be addressed in the current regulatory scheme.
     
  130. The higher the, fees the better. As an employee of a large law firm, it operates as an effective barrier to entry for many smaller firms.
     
  131. The higher the practising certificate fees, the less likely we will be able to employ solicitors as the costs become too large and we are better off employing a clerk for whom we do not have to pay fees.
     
  132. The idea of charging the same PC fee, whether or not you have trust authorisation, is unreasonable and unfair to those who do not need trust authorisation. It imposes unjustified costs on practitioners without trust authorisation. It is contrary to the "user pays" principle, as those who hold trust authorisation should bear the cost of regulation of trust accounts. It cross-subsidises the cost of regulating trust accounts by imposing those costs on practitioners who do not hold trust accounts. The cost of regulation is not funded in any way by the public purse or the Government, nor by the Legal Services Board: it is funded by the legal profession and our clients. Rather than bumping up PC fees by rates far in excess of CPI, the Commissioner and the Board should be reviewing red tape in the regulation of the profession and striving for efficiencies to actually reduce expenditure on regulation, including by reducing the number of employees of the Commissioner and Board, which appears excessive for the size of the profession in Victoria compared to other States.
     
  133. The increase will affect CLCs who pay for their employees’ practising certificates.
     
  134. The issue is not so much an increase, per se, but whether there is a better performing regulatory system if the fees are increased.
     
  135. The majority of my work is from community legal services for clients who do not qualify for legal aid. These clients cannot absorb any increase in my fees. 
     
  136. The market in which country practitioners operate is vastly different to that of our City colleagues. The pricing of legal services is absolutely limited by the clients’ capacity to pay. I, for one, have not increased my fees for the last three years simply because the economic environment I live and work in has stagnated (in an area that was already a designated as socially and economically disadvantaged), the costs of running my practice have in that same period continued to rise inexorably (compliance costs, wages, town agents fees, rent etc.). I do not feel that I can just shut down my practice because of the social obligation I have to the community, so I continue to practise, increasingly unprofitably. Access to the legal system is hard enough for country people and if I do make the decision to close my business (because I can certainly be better rewarded financially doing something other than practise law in the country), my client base will have no choice other than to travel (and by travel I do mean not just next door or walking down the street as is the case or the option for clients in the city and suburbs, where there are a plethora of legal practices to choose from). 
     
  137. The multiplicity of insurance payments is disorganised and inefficient, time consuming, and frustrating.
     
  138. The need to regulate is a benefit to the whole community who use legal services and the cost should not be borne by lawyers alone. We already subsidise so many aspects of the services we provide as much of the additional costs of online practice through various mandated portals that cannot readily be recovered from clients. The suburban lawyer will simply die out as a breed. The burdens around regulation are becoming too great.
     
  139. The only purpose for my Trust Account is to be able to ask for the security of receiving a deposit in advance for first time clients, as a security prepayment and a sign of good faith before commencing work for the client as a consultant.
     
  140. The other associated costs such as insurance and trust account audit costs far outstrip these proposed changes.
     
  141. The practising certificate fee is not too bad; it's the insurance that is expensive! I also feel that the profession is over-regulated and does not allow practitioners sufficient flexibility to respond innovatively or dynamically to doing business in the modern day.
     
  142. The profession has become overregulated since the introduction of the Uniform Law. As the participating State governments have forced standardisation on the profession with no benefit to the majority of the profession except the mega firms who practice across state boundaries, the governments and those who practise in more than one state should bear the burden of the increased regulation. This is a forlorn hope, but it needs to be articulated.
     
  143. The profession is massively over regulated, especially given the declining numbers of complaints received, let alone substantiated.
     
  144. The profession is overly regulated already - and the fact that the regulator wants to increase fees without putting any convincing case smacks of empire building. Currently, regulation cost is met in part by interest on trust accounts. This is as it should be, given that the regulation is for clients' benefit. Firms doing legal aid work have no capacity to increase fees to VLA when overheads increase. The result will further erode firms' ability to do legal aid work in the country.
     
  145. The profession is overregulated. A number of lawyers in our practice could still service clients without holding practising certificates and this is ultimately what will be forced upon asked if these proposals go through. The message for the LSB should be to not kill the goose which lays the golden egg.
     
  146. The profession needs good regulation on Trust Money held and less regulation on fees. It is a commercial marketplace. Fees should be set between practitioners and their clients.
     
  147. The proposed fee increase will not affect my decision to renew my practicing certificate and continue to practice, but it has huge implications for me as the director of a firm in terms of dramatically increased business expenses.
     
  148. The proposed fee increases are completely out of line with community and profession expectations. At a time when many businesses are tightening the belt in a difficult economy, and competition is eroding margins in the legal profession, it is unbelievable that the regulator thinks that it is an appropriate time to gouge fees from members. Working at a large firm, I can only see these proposed fee increases to benefit the big end of town who can absorb them, and push out smaller players - this leads to less competition and ultimately poorer outcomes for clients.   Consider also the low end work - already profitability is down, and access to justice is a serious issue. Putting up fees will just force many practitioners out in sectors that need more supply.
     
  149. The proposed increase is too much for suburban/boutique firms to take on. This on top of other required fees and premiums is unfair and there is no need for it.
     
  150. The proposed increase will ultimately be reflected in fee increases, will influence marginal employment decisions and does not account for the already high cost of maintaining trust accounts. The interest earned should in the first instance act as an offset against increased costs rather than pass those costs on. Costs passed on ultimately affect price.
     
  151. The regulation costs and insurance costs of a law practice are already extremely high. In particular, the practising certificate and Law Institute membership, and LPLC premium for a junior practitioner is up to 10% of the total costs associated with our office employing a junior practitioner. If practising certificates rise by the amount proposed by the LSC, I would expect that this would - impact our preparedness to employ and train junior solicitors - impact any wage review of junior solicitors as they become more senior, i.e., create a de facto pay rise freeze  - create a shift in our business from employing more solicitors to employing more support staff to generate more work from solicitors already employed - create a disincentive for providing young practitioners with 1-2 years initial training in our firm.
     
  152. The regulatory body needs to get tougher with those that breach the rules and act. Make them pay higher fees. Why should practitioners who do the right thing have to pay for those that don’t!
     
  153. The regulatory model is far too complicated and should be simplified and made more cost efficient.
     
  154. The total cost of a practising certificate with trust authorisation and PII was in excess of $8,000 last year. This is an enormous cost to have to pass onto clients, and mostly cannot be done. The Uniform Law is onerous enough to comply with, let alone having to pay such a huge cost for a practising certificate.
     
  155. The VLSBC should look to improving efficiency internally, take a more considered, tactical approach to regulation and consider reducing the profit it takes from interest on statutory deposit accounts and other investments before increasing practising certificate fees.
     
  156. The years of practice and claim history should be considered.
     
  157. There already is over-regulation. The LSC has stated that a small number of people are responsible for a significant proportion of issues that arise, concentrate on them and not on the significant number of lawyers who have no such issues. We pay too much for the regulation as it is.
     
  158. We are independent and small rural firm and need a trust account to operate. Our presence is like the banks in the towns - they are disappearing in the non-lucrative areas and providing call centre advice. Why do you want to further destroy our viability?
     
  159. There is a great difference between authorisation to receive trust monies for the purposes of transit only, and authorisation to receive trust monies for the purposes of maintaining a trust bank account.  Smaller (part time) practices will already be impacted by outside drivers, e.g. to engage in PEXA and therefore open a trust bank account - all these additional imposts will be unsustainable for small part-time practices, and appear to be driven by commercial interests.  I believe that the suggestion that being able to maintain a trust bank account is a 'benefit' for firms is inaccurate - for a small firm the costs (audit etc.) and the responsibility far outweigh the benefits, the only 'benefits' accruing to the clients and not the firm.
     
  160. There is no reason to allow such a massive increase. It is accepted that a CPI increase is fair.
     
  161. There is too much regulation of the profession as it is. Increasing the practising fee without an increase in fees is an example of the attitude of the community to lawyers i.e. a total disregard for the professionalism of the profession.
     
  162. There should also be consideration in relation to firms that have trust authorisation, but do not actually operate a trust account, the fee increase being proposed bears no relationship to CPI and is just outrageous, most lawyers run a small business and are being swamped by all this regulation and extra costs
     
  163. There would have to be a very good reason for a practising fee increase in order to justify passing the cost on to clients.  As the LIV's excellent initial response points out, much needs to be done before any decision on increases.
     
  164. This is just one of many increases that practices face. It is not an isolated cost of practice. There are and will be other fees and charges practices pay.
     
  165. This will have a significant impact on the already underfunded community legal sector and there should be a fee waiver for community legal centre paid lawyers
     
  166. To my mind, stream 3 is the most equitable approach. Anything else brings an unfair burden on those who have small practices who pay for their own practising certificate but do not necessarily make huge profits.
     
  167. Trust accounts facilitate the legal process generally, and do not serve the exclusive benefit of practitioners registered for trust and /or their clients. To facilitate settlements etc. practitioners not registered for trust use, by agreement, the trust accounts of practitioners registered for trust.  Practitioners not registered for trust therefore avoid the associated costs of holding a trust accounts because the administration fees for the transaction are deferred to their client, or, in most cases the costs are absorbed by the practitioner registered for trust. Further as a comment on the general cost of administrating the industry, I suggest that if third party levies were applied to each file scaled by the cost of the file - it would be easier for practitioners to defray the costs to clients. It would also mean that fees are set based on file volume and file risk.
     
  168. Trust money requires greater oversight, therefore, fees should be higher. The profession does not need more costly bureaucratic oversight.
     
  169. We are a small country practice that has only been around for less than 3 years. We are struggling to make this practice work and given the massive push for practitioners in regional areas, there should be some intensives. This fee increase would be very difficult for us coupled with the LPLC fees. There should be separate fees for country firms in comparison with big city firms. It is disappointing that there even needs to be a survey for this to be recognised.
     
  170. We are highly regulated and held to an extremely high standard, but in rural/regional Victoria, the ability to pass on those overheads as professional charges is limited.
     
  171. We need to prepare for higher costs of regulation that will accompany progressively reducing access to interest on clients' trust monies.
     
  172. We shall focus on increasing our standard of professional practices in Victoria rather fee. Law has been unaffordable for many clients in my past 17 years' practices and one of my main jobs is to cut fee in order to support clients. There is no room to pass the increase to the clients in our practices. For the public interest, we should promote less-fee law practices.
     
  173. We're a small practice and the proposed cost is the same for all 3 current practitioners as it would be for one under the new scheme. 
     
  174. What specific output(s) or outcome(s) can be pinpointed by pursuing an increase in the fee? Who and or what group benefits from the increased fee?
     
  175. When your only income derives from VLA funding, such charges would be disproportionately severe.
     
  176. Where is the discussion about what can be done to lower our fees? They are already too high - and prohibitive of a small suburban firm being able to hire more staff (in conjunction with the insurance costs).
     
  177. While I am practising law, as I am not an employer and I am not involved in any commercial decision-making process regarding the practice, there is limit contribution to which I can make.
     
  178. While I work at a major law firm, the proposed increase in fees is unacceptably high. This would have a dramatic impact on my firm, and may impact on salary increases over the long term. I do not support the change in any way. There does not seem to be any justification for an increase in fees for practising certificates.
     
  179. Whilst I could not directly pass on fees, given the cost of running a practice is constantly increasing, including PI insurance, rent, wages etc., the reality is we will have no choice to pass this increase onto customers by increasing our rates, and therefore shutting out consumers from obtaining legal advice, increasing the perception that lawyers charge too much, and ultimately affecting business. Not a good move.
     
  180. Why is this being done?  Has the cost of regulation gone up? If so, why? Why does it cost so much to regulate lawyers? Are the risks posed by lawyers increasing? What will this do to the Public Purpose Fund and money for legal aid?
     
  181. With the advent of PEXA, every practitioner will need to operate a Trust Account for Conveyancing matters. Extra costs are incurred.
     
  182. To date, corporate employers have been willing to pay for practising certificates - despite these not actually being needed by in-house lawyers. If the fees significantly increase (i.e. double), employers will be less likely to pay for the fees - let alone the voluntary institute membership (which they already currently dispute paying).
     
  183. Your survey fails to take into account the possibility that I practise in Victoria AND interstate. The level of bureaucracy from LSB re Trust moneys is a large burden on Sole Practitioners, they want a form for this and a form for that, and will not read letters that do not corm with forms. They reject forms that are lodged if not fully compliant. In short, they are difficult to deal with. If fees increase, then so should PRO scales. Annual Trust audit cost is additional expense for holder of certificate with Trust Authorisation. Employee certificate fees in firms with trust authorisation should be contributing to Trust authorisation costs. A Proposed fee hike is unconscionable in this day and age.