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Victorian Legal Services Board: Understanding the Public Purpose Fund

Victorian Legal Services Board: Understanding the Public Purpose Fund

By Fiona McLeay

Legal Services 

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The PPF provides funding to both the LIV and the Victorian Bar to deliver education and engagement initiatives that benefit the profession.

When someone mentions the term regulator, it can conjure up images of enforcement and compliance. While this is certainly an important part of the work we do both for consumer protection and to assist the profession to maintain the highest possible standards, as a modern regulator we are much more than this. 

We have a significant and far-reaching stewardship role that benefits both lawyers and consumers of legal services. Our goal is to maintain and enhance public trust and confidence in the legal profession in Victoria. We do this because the integrity of the legal profession is fundamental to the legitimacy of the justice system and the maintenance and protection of the rule of law. One key way we work towards this goal is through our management of the public purpose fund (PPF). 

How is the VLSB+C funded?

Interest earned from money held in trust, income from practising certificate fees and from fines imposed on lawyers by VCAT and income from investment returns provide the VLSB+C with the funding needed to regulate the legal profession and improve consumers’ access to justice. Along with the Fidelity Fund, which compensates consumers who have lost money or property due to dishonest conduct, the VLSB+C PPF is a crucial source of funding for a host of public benefits. 

What does the PPF do? 

Along with covering the costs of the regulator’s operations, each year the PPF contributes around 15 per cent of Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) budget, which in 2018-19 amounted to $35.5 million. VLA provides a vital service to vulnerable Victorians, particularly those who experience language, literacy or cultural barriers, disability or other health issues, or social and geographical isolation. Last year VLA helped more than 100,000 unique clients by providing information, legal advice and education – focusing on prevention and early resolution of legal problems. 

We also provide funding to: 

  • Victorian Law Reform Commission, for its work on law reform 
  • VCAT Legal Practice List 
  • Victoria Law Foundation, for legal research, community legal education and grants 
  • Victorian Legal Admissions Board 
  • Justice Connect 
  • Federation of Community Legal Centres 
  • Legal Services Council, for the administration of the Uniform Law scheme. 

In addition, the PPF provides funding to both the LIV and the Victorian Bar to deliver education and engagement initiatives that benefit the profession, and to allow them to carry out the regulation duties delegated by us. 

Since 2007, the Legal Services Board Grants Program has provided more than $44 million to more than 200 organisations for existing projects and new initiatives that improve access to justice and legal services, educate communities about important legal issues, conduct legal research and support law reform. In the past, these important projects have included health-justice partnerships in regional Victoria, culturally appropriate legal services for Indigenous and migrant communities, legal support for at-risk youth and many more. This program would not be possible without funding from the PPF. 

Managing the funds responsibly 

The returns on our investments currently provide the largest proportion of PPF income. We rely on sound expert financial and investment advice when making investments, and over time have been able to ensure that we can continue to provide funds for the public purposes such as those outlined above. The PPF investment portfolio has reduced exposure to interest rate fluctuations, while increasing the returns we receive. It has also provided predictability of funding for organisations, like Victoria Legal Aid, that rely on the PPF as part of their annual budgets. Our annual reports provide further details of how much we invest and the types of investments we make. 

The last significant income source is from the practising certificate fees paid by the 23,000 Victorian lawyers every year. The PPF provides a part subsidy for the cost of practising certificates. Because of the past strength of the PPF’s balance and income, we have been able to set practising certificate fees at approximately 40 per cent of what the cost would otherwise be. 

PPF benefits everybody 

Without the PPF, many of the programs and initiatives outlined here would likely not exist or would have to seek funding from government. The competition for public funds can be fierce, and the PPF provides valuable resources to enable our legal sector to maintain the rule of law, improve the justice system, protect consumers and help ensure the Victorian public has trust and confidence in the legal profession. 


Fiona McLeay is Victorian Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner.


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