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Legal Practitioners Unit

Legal Practitioners Unit (LPU) was established in 2009 as an initiative of the Government. The Legal Practitioners Unit was set up as a project within the Judicial Department under the control and direction of the Chief Registrar to assist the Chief Registrar to effectively and expeditiously investigate and process complaints against Legal Practitioners, and for other matters arising under the Legal Practitioners Decree, 2009.

 

The aim of the Unit:

  • to protect the public from the misconduct of lawyers;
  • to safeguard the legal profession by making them answerable for their wrong doings;
  • to strengthen the trust that the public have in the legal profession;
  • to maintain the standards and the expectations that the public have towards the legal profession.

Powers of the Chief Registrar

The additional responsibilities of the Chief Registrar are to receive complaints, investigate and lay discilinary charges before the commission against lawyers accordingly for professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional conduct.

Other Regulatory Function of the Chief Registrar

Practicing Certificates of the legal practitioners are issued by the Chief Registrar and the office is also responsible for ensuring compliance of the Trust Accounts Act, 1996 by the legal practitioners and law firms. The Chief Registrar is to carefully scrutinize the annual trust account audit reports and check for compliance. If any law firm has not complied with the Trust Accounts Act, 1996, the CR can investigate and lay disciplinary charges.

Mediation

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which is a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties. The Chief Registrar is a third party and the mediator who assists the parties to negotiate and come to a settlement.(Facilitative mediation).

If the mediation fails then the complaint file is referred to the Prosecution Unit.

Complaints Against Legal Practitioners

  • If you have a complaint against a legal practitioner or a law firm, you have to fill a ‘Complaint Form’ available at all Court Registries.
  • Please ensure that the form is complete and that all the necessary supporting documents are furnished.
  • Upon receipt of the Complaint Form, the Legal Practitioners Unit will be issuing the complainannt a letter acknowledging the complaint and also provide you with a ‘reference number ’ which should be quoted in all future correspondence.
  • After receiving the complaint, the LPU will do a Preliminary Brief Assessment of the complaint and may contact you for further information/ supporting documents.
  • Thereafter the complaint is referred to the legal practitioner for their response within a stipulated time frame. Failure to respond may result in prosecution.
  • Upon receipt of the response, a copy is forwarded to the Complainant for their response.
  • File is referred to the Legal Officer for further action.

Prosecution

If the Legal Practitioners Unit prefers to proceed against the legal practitioner under the Legal Practitioners Decree 2009, then relevant charges are filed with the Independent Legal Service Commission (ILSC). The practitioner is advised accordingly and is referred to the Independent Legal Services Commission for prosecution.

The ILSC operates in a similar manner as to the Courts. A hearing date is given in respect of the matter against the particular practitioner.

Upon notification of the Hearing date, summons will be issued to the complainant and witnesses to attend the Hearing and give evidence at the Commission.

Before the hearing date the complainant will be called for a pre-trial conference by the Prosecution Unit.

Following prosecution if there is no appeal the complaint is closed.

If there is an appeal to the Fiji Court of Appeal and subsequently, the Supreme Court, the complaint will be closed after the appeal process is exhausted.

  • If possible, get a person to accompany you to the lawyer ’s office
  • Make notes after every visit or phone call to a lawyer. Jot down the date and time of each visit or phone call
  • Ask the lawyer for copies of the documents that are being signed.
  • Always ask for receipt of monies paid. You have the right to do so.
  • Before agreeing to hire a lawyer he or she must explain the basics upon which legal fees or costs will be incurred.
  • Always try to make payments of legal fees at the lawyer ’s office and not their residence.
  • Be sure to read the content of the document you sign and ask for time to make important decisions.
  • If you are made to sign a document without the contents being explained or without being given time to go through it then ask for a copy to be provided to you before you sign the document. Once you have gone through the document. You may then sign.
  • If possible, get a person to accompany you to the lawyer ’s office
  • Make notes after every visit or phone call to a lawyer. Jot down the date and time of each visit or phone call
  • Ask the lawyer for copies of the documents that are being signed.
  • Always ask for receipt of monies paid. You have the right to do so.
  • Before agreeing to hire a lawyer he or she must explain the basics upon which legal fees or costs will be incurred.
  • Always try to make payments of legal fees at the lawyer ’s office and not their residence.
  • Be sure to read the content of the document you sign and ask for time to make important decisions.
  • If you are made to sign a document without the contents being explained or without being given time to go through it then ask for a copy to be provided to you before you sign the document. Once you have gone through the document. You may then sign.
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Media Release

Keynote Address by Chief Justice Anthony Gates
at the Opening of the Fiji Law Society's Convention
"Fundamentals of Private Practice" 25th September 2015,
Novotel, Suva

Click here to view/download the speech.