Assistance with Complaints to Legal Profession Complaints Committee
One source of distress and anxiety experienced by members of the profession is the making of a complaint about the practitioner to the Legal Profession Complaints Committee and involvement in subsequent proceedings in State Administrative Tribunal.
Some practitioners, particularly younger practitioners and those in sole or small practices, have felt uncertain as to how to obtain independent legal advice and assistance in dealing with a complaint.
There has been, and is, a widespread custom of silks in this jurisdiction to advise practitioners who are the subject of a disciplinary complaint, usually without fee, and to appear for practitioners at disciplinary hearings, either without a fee (usually in respect of short or simple hearings) or for a reduced fee for longer or more complex hearings. Such fee arrangements being agreed between the practitioner and the counsel on a case by case basis.
This practice has always been an extension on the practice of silks being available to the profession generally to assist with ethical issues and questions.
Usually, practitioners have sought the assistance of a silk that the practitioner knew or with whom the practitioner had some existing connection.
With the growth of the profession, it is understood some younger practitioners and some sole practitioners or practitioners in small practices may not have not felt that they knew a silk sufficiently well to request assistance of this type when facing a complaint.
To deal with that problem the Western Australian Bar Association will, in appropriate cases, endeavour to facilitate the provision of advice to, and where appropriate, representation for members of the profession by a barrister, either a silk or a senior junior.
The Practitioners Advice Referral Service is administered by the Vice President of the Western Australian Bar Association, who may be contacted through the Executive Officer, Debbie Cole on (08) 9220 0477.
Where such advice or representation is facilitated, what, if any, fee arrangements are to be put in place is a matter for the practitioner and counsel to discuss and agree. The custom of not charging a fee for advice in disciplinary matters and not charging or charging a reduced fee for appearances in such matters, is widespread but not universal.
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