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Tribunal reviews power to appoint manager to firm

Following a complaint made by a firm of barristers and solicitors, a tribunal was tasked with considering if a legal profession board has the power to appoint more than one manager.

user iconNaomi Neilson 10 November 2023 Big Law
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A decision by the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia to appoint two managers to Chapmans Barristers and Solicitors was questioned by Len Gandini and made the subject of a stay application before the State Administrative Tribunal.

Mr Gandini sought a review of the board’s decision and contended it had no power under the Uniform Law to appoint more than one manager of a legal practice at any given time.

Although the tribunal noted it had no jurisdiction to make “any binding determination” as to the extent of the statutory power, Mr Gandini’s request for a review meant the tribunal “must form its own understanding of … the legal framework for the decision”.

 
 

Having done so, the tribunal found more than one intervener may be appointed to a law practice as it was “expressly acknowledged” under the Uniform Law. The stay application was dismissed.

The appointments were made by the board following the resignation of the firm’s former manager because no other person within Chapmans had the authority to act as a principal.

The only employee entitled to engage in practice did not hold a practising certificate that would allow him to become the principal of Chapmans or to hold trust money.

Mr Gandini submitted the appointment of more than one manager at any given time would “lead to results which are unworkable or absurd”, but the tribunal concluded the “practicalities of such concurrent appointments can be resolved in a variety of ways”.

“Furthermore, the position of a manager is not one which, by its nature, could only be performed by one person at a time.

“Given the role of a manager is effectively to act as the principal of a law practice, and given that nothing in the Uniform Law requires that a law practice operate with only one principal, we do not consider that anything in the role of a manager requires that there be only one manager of a law practice at any given time,” the tribunal concluded.