Introducing: Mozaert (yes, 'Mozaert')


My parents gave me that name not in reference to the classical composer, but because a customer of their music shop — coincidentally a lawyer — was nicknamed ‘Mozart’.

It has two redeeming features that more than make up for the 16 years of bullying I endured. It is distinctive, and it is so well-known that almost anyone can spell it. I do not have to repeat myself or spell it out because people immediately recognise it.

But then my practising certificate arrived.

For those unfamiliar with accreditation of lawyers in Australia, it is a multistep process. You must complete an academic law degree, a practical legal training course, be admitted as a lawyer of a Supreme Court, and to actually practise law you need a practising certificate issued by the relevant law society.

I filled in the application form and waited patiently for three weeks for my practising certificate to arrive.

When it arrived I gave it only a cursory glance. Later, when I looked at it more closely, I noticed a problem:

Practising certificate

I’m so used to seeing my name spelt correctly that I missed it the first time.

My theory as to how this happened is that it’s simply down to an error by a clumsy or inattentive typist. The letters ‘E’ and ‘R’ are next to each other, and it’s not difficult to imagine a slip of the finger.

However, my application form was submitted electronically, using a typeface rather than handwritten. It should have been a simple matter of diligence to correct this by comparing the details, side-by-side, to the clearly filled-in form I submitted.

Not only that, but it must have been checked over by the person who printed the form, assuming the person who entered the data was not the person who printed it. It is usual practice to examine the accuracy of a certificate before issuing it.

Lastly, it was signed by the President of the Law Society.

At no point in this process does anyone seem to have thought to ask ‘Mozaert? That’s an unusual way of spelling that. Are you sure this is correct?’ before it was sent out.

What’s weirder is that I received no confirmation from the Law Society that (a) my application had been received; (b) my application was being processed; (c) my application had been approved; or (d) my application had been sent.

So naturally, when I had waited a couple of weeks without seeing any debit from my bank account for the fee, I called to check on the status. I gave my name and the person at the registry put me on hold to check, then came back to assure me it was being processed.

They either didn’t notice the problem, or decided not to ask me about it at that stage.

Now, the typo isn’t just on my certificate. It was also on the tear off slip I’m meant to keep for my records at the top of the certificate, and as the addressee on the tax invoice I received separately.

I’m usually a fairly patient person, but I do expect a level of competence from people who are responsible in regard to someone else’s career. I cannot practise law without a valid practising certificate and, while this mistake doesn’t seem to invalidate it, I would like to be able to show it to employers and clients without a glaring error that, in my opinion, looks unprofessional.

So I emailed the Law Society with a photo of the problem. I received no response within 24 hours, so I called again and explained the situation.

I didn’t receive either an apology or an offer to despatch a replacement by express post.

I also requested advice as to whether the error would affect practising, but received no information.

As a person joining the legal profession, this does not inspire confidence. I doubt I will push the issue further, but I do think more should be expected given the cost of a practising certificate is $380 per year (plus a $70 fidelity fund contribution for law firm employees, and $418 for Law Society membership).