Paid agents vs lawyers: do you get what you pay for?
In the recent scathing judgment of Allan Gabriel v Titan Recruitment Pty Ltd T/A Titan Recruitment  FWC 230, Deputy President Clancy has found that Unfair Dismissal Australia Pty Ltd demonstrated a “fundamental lack of care and attention to [the Applicants] case”.
In this case, the Fair Work Commission granted a rare extension of time for an unfair dismissal application on the basis of a series of egregious representative errors. Some comments regarding the conduct of the representative include, among other things:
1. That Unfair Dismissals Australia named a company as a Respondent that never employed the Applicant.
2. The Applicant noted that Unfair Dismissal Australia filed a notice of discontinuance on his behalf without his knowledge or instructions to do so.
3. Submissions filed by Unfair Dismissal Australia were described by Deputy Clancy as “such a poor quality that it is embarrassing”.
4. Despite being on a “no win, no fee” arrangement, Unfair Dismissal Australia attempted to claim fees from the Applicant where it engaged in the various errors above and had not resulted in a “win” for him.
In many cases, companies such as Unfair Dismissal Australia are not lawyers and are considered paid agents for the purposes of representation. Paid agents do not have the same training and qualifications as lawyers and are not required to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) units annually to maintain their practising certificate. Often charging a smaller amount in light of this fact, paid agents are not bound by the same ethical standards as lawyers.
Unfortunately, there are a growing number of cases where the Fair Work Commission has found that paid agents have demonstrated “a lack of care and attention”, lacking the necessary expertise or acting contrary to the client’s instructions. In these cases, Applicants have limited options to address this fundamental lack of care and expertise by their paid agents