Frequently asked questions

What is a government legal officer?

The Legal Profession Act 2017 provides for the regulation of legal practice in Queensland. The legislation applies to Australian lawyers and Australian legal practitioners. An Australian lawyer is a person who is admitted to the legal profession in Queensland or in another corresponding jurisdiction. Australian legal practitioners are Australian lawyers who hold a current practising certificate and are therefore entitled to engage in legal practice.

Under section 12 of the Legal Profession Act, a government legal officer is defined to include a person whose employment or appointment in a Queensland Government department, at the Legal Services Commission or an agency prescribed by regulation, includes or may include engaging in legal practice.

The Legal Services Regulation 2017 prescribes each of the following entities as an agency under section 12 of the Legal Profession Act:

  • the Australian Government Solicitor
  • the Board of Architects of Queensland
  • the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland
  • the Building and Construction Industry (Portable Long Service Leave) Authority
  • the Crime and Corruption Commission
  • each Hospital and Health Service under the Hospital and Health Boards Act 2011
  • the Office of the Information Commissioner
  • the Office of the Ombudsman
    • the Office of the Public Guardian
    • the Public Safety Business Agency
  • the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel
  • the Parliamentary Service
  • the Queensland Building Services Authority
  • the Queensland Treasury Corporation
  • the Queensland Water Commission
  • the Residential Tenancies Authority
  • the Workers' Compensation Regulatory Authority

A government legal officer is engaged in government work when the government legal officer is engaged in legal practice in the course of the officer's duties.

A government legal officer who is an Australian lawyer does not have any fewer rights, privileges, protections or immunities than an Australian lawyer who is not a government legal officer. A government legal officer who is not an Australian lawyer is subject to the same limitations and obligations to which a government legal officer who is an Australian lawyer is subject.

Do I need a practising certificate?

Government legal officers who are engaged in government work are not required to hold a practising certificate under section 44(2) of the Legal Profession Act.

Although not required to, a government lawyer may choose to maintain a practising certificate. A condition of the practising certificate is that the holder may not engage in legal practice other than as a government legal officer engaged in government work. Government legal officers who have a practising certificate are not required under the Legal Profession Act to be covered by professional indemnity insurance or contribute to the fidelity fund.

Government legal officers moving admissions

Government legal officers who do not hold practising certificates may move admissions. See section 6 of the Legal Profession Regulation 2017 which provides that that the moving, by an Australian lawyer who is a government legal officer, of an application for admission does not constitute legal practice for section 24(1) of the Legal Profession Act , if the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board has recommended the applicant's admission, without conditions.

The moving of applications for admission by government legal officers who hold practising certificates is still under consideration. Because section 353 of the Legal Profession Act requires government lawyers' practising certificates to be conditional on the lawyer not engaging in legal practice, other than as a government legal officer engaged in government work, it would be advisable for these officers not to move admissions for the time being.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

Government legal officers holding practising certificates must complete ten units of continuing professional development (CPD) per year. Government legal officers not holding practising certificates are strongly recommended to comply with the CPD requirements.

The CPD year begins on 1 April and ends on 31 March the following year.

The CPD scheme allows you to claim CPD units gained in January, February or March towards either the current CPD scheme year or the following CPD scheme year. For example, if you have obtained ten CPD units by December of one year, you may use CPD units gained during the following January, February or March towards the next CPD scheme year.

There are three compulsory CPD core areas:

  • practical legal ethics
  • practice management and business skills
  • professional skills

You must complete a minimum of one CPD unit for each of the three core areas annually. The Queensland Law Society has published the list below as a guide. Some core areas may be taught as part of a broader topic. While providers may indicate the core area to which their CPD activity belongs, it is up to you to identify which core area it applies to.

Practical legal ethics core area:

  • conflicts of interest
  • how to identify legal ethical issue
  • communicating directly with third parties
  • a lawyer's duties to the court
  • ethics within a technical legal context or practice area (e.g. corporate law)

Practice management and business skills core area:

  • risk management
  • file management
  • costs rules
  • business planning
  • financing a practice
  • effective use of technology

Professional skills core area:

  • communication and interpersonal skills
  • client interviewing
  • plain English drafting
  • negotiation and mediation skills
  • career and personal development
  • advocacy
  • legal research

Please see the Queensland Law Society Guide to CPD requirements for a complete guide to CPD.