Proposed reforms to the Constitution of the Victorian bar
At a special meeting this week, Bar Council resolved to convene a Special General Meeting of the Victorian Bar at 5pm on Wednesday 12 June 2019 at which proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Victorian Bar will be put for the consideration of members.
As members know, successive Bar Councils in recent years have conducted a thorough governance review of the whole of the Victorian Bar. One of the last items that was identified as requiring reform in the course of that review was the Bar’s Constitution.
There has not been a complete review of the Constitution in almost 10 years. Many parts of the Constitution are now out-of-date. To take just one example, the Constitution contains many references to the Legal Profession Act 2004, which was repealed in 2014. The Constitution assumes that the Bar and the Ethics Committee continue to have statutory functions under that legislation which they no longer have.
The Bar Council, under the leadership of its governance working group, has conducted a comprehensive review of the Constitution and proposes a number of amendments, some of which are substantive, and some of which are to improve the clarity and consistency of the document. The whole of the Bar Council has approved the proposed amendments being put to a Special General Meeting.
All members who are eligible to vote will receive an information pack in coming days, including a set of proposed special resolutions, an explanatory memorandum, the proposed amended Constitution and a proxy form.
In broad terms, the substantive amendments that are proposed are aimed at achieving the following:
A Town Hall style meeting will be held to discuss the proposed changes, and to enable questions to be answered, on 30 May 2019 at 5pm in the Neil McPhee room.
In the meantime, though, every member of Bar Council is available at any time to discuss the proposed amendments. Floor or interest group meetings with members of Bar Council can be arranged upon request to discuss the proposed amendments by contacting the Executive Assistant to the President and the Bar Council, Denise Bennett, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Constitutional reform is always difficult, with apathy its greatest opponent. The Bar Council has taken the view that, in the interests of good governance, we should not put reform in the ‘too hard’ basket.
I expect that almost all of the proposed amendments will be uncontroversial and that members will readily see the sense in making them. If, after considering the matter, you are in that camp, please don’t be apathetic—come to the SGM to vote in favour of the changes, or provide a proxy that enables your voice to be heard.
Some of the changes may be more controversial, but they have been the subject of long and considered debate, in some cases over multiple Bar Councils, and the current Bar Council believes that they all ought to be the subject of debate and decision.
Either way, the governance of the Bar will be enhanced by a robust debate and by members having their say.
I urge members to get involved in the debate, and to attend the Special General Meeting on 12 June. If you are unable to attend, I urge you to appoint a proxy. An appointment of proxy form is available here.
Corporate Counsel Engagement pilot – call for Expressions of Interest
The Bar is calling for expressions of interest from members wishing to participate actively in a Corporate Counsel Engagement Pilot. The pilot is a two-way education program aimed at improving understanding amongst barristers of ‘what clients want’ as well as how to deliver it; improving awareness amongst in-house counsel of what the Bar has to offer and how and when they should use it; and showcasing the subject matter expertise available at the Bar. More information in the notice below.
Congratulations to Senior Vice-President Wendy Harris QC for her work in investigating and designing the pilot program. For anyone who missed the informative (and very well attended) briefing on Wednesday morning, keep an eye out for the video that will shortly be available in the Members>CPD section of the website.
Bar Council By-Election – voting closes Wednesday 15 May, 5pm
Voting has commenced for the Bar Council by-election to fill the vacancy created by the appointment of Justice Forbes to the Supreme Court. We have an impressive (and Melbourne Cup length field) of candidates.
Online voting will be open until 5pm Wednesday 15 May, with the poll being declared at a meeting of Bar Council the following day. Vote from the Members>Voting section of the website. More details in the notice below.
Law Aid Trust – Expressions of Interest
The Victorian Bar has been invited to nominate a trustee to the Law Aid Trust, a charitable trust managed by the Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar to support the funding of civil disbursements in civil litigation matters undertaken by law firms on a pro bono and “no-win, no-fee” basis.
The Bar is calling for Expressions of Interest from members who may wish to contribute as one of the Bar’s nominated Trustees. The appointment will be for a term of two years.
Your Expression of Interest should identify any relevant areas of experience or expertise, including:
Please direct any enquiries or Expressions of Interest to Liz Ingham at the Victorian Bar office: email@example.com, ph 9225 6947.
The closing date for Expressions of Interest is Friday 24 May 2019 at 4pm.
A busy week
My week was book-ended by welcomes – for Justice Anderson in the Federal Court on Monday and Justice Forbes in the Supreme Court this morning. My thanks to Victorian Bar Vice-President Wendy Harris QC, who represented the Bar at the welcome for Judge George Georgiou in the County Court yesterday. Click the links to read the speeches.
I attended the launch of Law Week on Wednesday and yesterday assisted the Hon Stephen Charles AO QC with an information session for members considering applying to take silk. A video of the information session will be available on the Members>CPD section of the website soon.
Behind the scenes, I chaired a special purpose Bar Council meeting in relation to the proposed Constitutional reforms as well as a meeting of the Bar Council Executive. I met with the Victorian Attorney-General, the Legal Services Commissioner and the CEO of BCL.
The profession will welcome Magistrate Shiva Pillai on Tuesday 14 May at 9:15am in Court 1 of the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.