On Monday, I appeared on behalf of the Victorian Bar to present our new silks to the High Court. The ceremony, held at the commencement of every new legal year, is significant. The new silks from each State and Territory stand in turn to take their bows, the Victorians wigless but wearing their rosettes and those from the northern States dressed up in their long ceremonial wigs. The Chief Justice remarked on what he described as the ‘subtle’ differences between the Bars on display in the courtroom and expressed the Court’s gratitude for the courtesy that the new silks showed the Court by their attendance. At the afternoon tea following the ceremony, the Victorian members of the High Court were especially generous with the time they spent meeting the silks and their families and friends. The silks were also supported by the presence of the Honourable Chief Justice William Alstergren AO and the Honourable Justice Simon Whelan, who attended as the representative of the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court. The ceremony was followed by a gala dinner held at the National Gallery.
Whilst in Canberra, I also attended the Australian Bar Association’s first quarterly meeting for 2024. Sam Hay KC, the new Chair of Conferences, is busily planning the Joint ABA and New Zealand Bar Association conference to be held in New Zealand in August this year. I will publish the details as soon as I have them.
On Wednesday morning, I and others from the Executive, the Bar Office, and many of you attended the Legal Laneway Breakfast hosted by the Victorian Law Foundation. The laneway was overflowing with lawyers, all eager to catch up with each other after the break, and I thank the members of our Bar Office who assisted with the service. The Attorney-General, Jaclyn Symes MP, spoke of the State Government’s legislative agenda (particularly its determination to improve our anti-vilification laws) and acknowledged the dedication of the Victorian legal profession to the administration of justice in this State. The speakers also included the Honourable Justice Greg Garde AO RFD, who is the Chair of the Victorian Law Foundation and Fiona McLeay, the Victorian Legal Services Commissioner. Ms McLeay announced the publication of cybersecurity resources for the legal profession. The resources include Minimum Cybersecurity Expectations, a list of Cybersecurity Red Flags and a guide to Good Practices. To view the resources, click here.
Last year, with support from the VLSB, the Health & Wellbeing Committee commissioned a short film to help our members deal with the stress that our work often causes. The film entitled “Bar None”, was written and directed by Abi Richardson and stars a number of familiar faces. I congratulate Ms Richardson and the Health & Wellbeing Committee on this exceptional production, especially Dr Michelle Sharpe, former Chair of the Committee, who also appears in a short cameo and Darren Mort, who was instrumental in the production and writing of the film. Members can view the film here, it deserves a proper launch, and details will follow.
On Thursday, the Honourable Peter Riordan KC (Chair of the 5-Year Exam Review Panel), Anthony Strahan KC (Chair of the Readers’ Course Committee), Ben Ihle KC (Deputy Chair of the RCC), Chris Archibald KC (Chair of the Standing Exam Review Panel), Elizabeth Bennett S.C. and I, met with the Honourable Chief Justices Mortimer and Ferguson and other members of the judiciary to hear their concerns about the Bar Exam. We are grateful to Chief Justice Ferguson for organising the meeting and know that the concerns expressed are shared by many of you. A ‘town hall’ meeting will be held in the Neil McPhee Room on Monday, 12 February, from 4:30pm to 5:30pm to allow members to share their thoughts and suggestions about the Bar Exam and Readers’ Course with the 5-Year Readers’ Course Exam Review Panel. If you have a view, I encourage you to attend.
On Thursday morning, Colin Mandy S.C. spoke on behalf of the Victorian Bar at a welcome ceremony held by the County Court to mark the appointment of her Honour Judge Liberty Sanger OAM. Her Honour was a principal of Maurice Blackburn and the head of its National Personal Injury Division before her appointment and has been a member of many Government and community Boards and organisations. I wish her Honour a long and distinguished career on the bench.
Last night, I attended the Commercial Bar Association Annual Drinks at the Commonwealth Law Courts. This annual event, hosted jointly by the Chief Justices of the Federal and Supreme Courts and CommBar, has become one of the most popular events on the calendar. This year, the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court joined the party as a host, and I congratulate the Chief Justices and the committee for pulling off yet another fabulous event.
The Federal Attorney-General, the Honourable Mark Dreyfus KC MP, has appointed the Honourable Justice Penelope Neskovcin and the Honourable Justice Craig Dowling to the Victorian registry of the Federal Court. I congratulate their Honours and look forward to welcoming them formally. We will publish details of their welcomes as soon as we have them.
Save the date
The High Court has recently revised the process for the consideration of applications for special leave to appeal, applications for leave to appeal and applications for removal so that they will be considered on the papers and will rarely be given an oral hearing. On Wednesday, 21 February, the Honourable Justice Michelle Gordon AC will present a seminar on the new process with the Victorian Solicitor-General, Rowena Orr KC. The seminar will address written advocacy in civil and criminal applications. The registration link will be circulated once it is available.
On Wednesday, 28 February, the Victorian Bar will host a Conversation with Arnold Dix in the Peter O'Callaghan QC Gallery. Members may have read of Arnold’s pivotal role in the heroic rescue of 41 trapped miners from a collapsed mine in the Himalayas late last year. Arnold will be introduced by the Honourable Justice Robert Osborn, with whom he read. The ABC will also be in attendance to film the event for an episode of Australian Story. I hope to see many of you there. Registration is essential, please do so via the link here.
Law Week will run from May 20-26 this year and will be hosted by the Victoria Law Foundation. It is a series of community events and activities designed to make it easier for members of the public to learn about the law. Event submissions are now open. Committees and associations wishing to represent the Bar are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Bar hosts multiple events yearly during Law Week, and we hope to be well-represented again in 2024. Find out more here.
Until next week, pens down.
Georgina Schoff KC