Democracy triumphs – thank you for voting
Some terrific advocacy and plenty of good humour was on display at the Special General Meeting (SGM) of the Victorian Bar held on Wednesday evening. Members debated, for and against, the most comprehensive package of proposed reforms to the Constitution of the Bar in many years.
Fourteen of the 16 special resolutions put by the Bar Council for the consideration of members passed (special resolutions 2, 3 and 5–16). The successful resolutions were supported by strong majorities of 85% and above. In total, more than 100 provisions of the Constitution were amended or added.
The successful resolutions have effected significant changes to the Constitution. Among other reforms:
The two special resolutions which did not reach the 75% threshold required (1 and 4), each had majority support. They concerned the introduction of a biennial election for Bar Council and the introduction of a 2-year term limit for the President; and an amendment in relation to the disciplining of members for certain conduct.
I was delighted by the level of engagement by members of the Bar in this ambitious process of reform and the spirit of the broader debate on Wednesday.
Thanks to Bar Council and all those involved in the long history of these reforms.
Thanks too to the many people who took the time to write to me to commend the Bar Council on its prosecution of the proposed reforms. As one member put it to me, in terms I could not improve upon: “We have shown we can manage our affairs in accordance with rules and do so with decorum. We can achieve difficult, even somewhat painful, reform. We respect and aspire to having at all times good governance. We do not agree on everything but we find a way through.”
The 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List recognised a number of members and former members of the Victorian Bar.
Congratulations to former Victorian Bar Chairmen and practising members James Peters AM QC and Michael Shand AM QC (Order of Australia, Member in the General Division). Also honoured were members Dr Annabelle Bennett AC SC (Companion in the General Division) and Justice Paul Coghlan AO (Officer in the General Division).
Former members of the Bar who received gongs were Dennis Cowdroy AO QC and Nicholas Cowdery AO QC (Officers in the General Division); and Suzan Cox OAM QC and Clement Newton-Brown OAM (Medal in the General Division).
Last chance – ABA commercial law conference in Singapore
Singapore will be the venue for a two-day commercial law and litigation conference organised by the Australian Bar Association next month (11–12 July).
The Chief Justice of Australia, the Hon Susan Kiefel AC, and the Chief Justice of Singapore, the Hon Sundaresh Menon will deliver a joint keynote address to kick off the conference, Convergence: the world-class conference for litigators.
The speaker line-up for the conference is a who’s who of the profession.
I’m certainly not in that category, but on day two, I am looking forward to moderating another of my Hypotheticals with an expert panel discussing ethical issues in domestic and international litigation. In my spare time I have been working on the scenario for the Hypothetical, which will involve a twisted and amusing take on some recent events, transposed to a different context (obscure enough for you?).
The closing date for registrations to attend the conference is this Sunday, 16 June. Singapore is a great destination in itself for those wanting a break from Melbourne’s winter, or the ideal launching spot for a trip further afield. The conference is an opportunity to take a break from the grind of daily practice and reflect upon important issues affecting the law and the legal profession (not to mention a painless way to earn a full year’s complement of CPD points).
Coroners Court Pro Bono Referral Scheme
Last night I formally launched the Coroners Court of Victoria Direct Pro Bono Referral Scheme, which is the culmination of more than a year’s collaboration between the Court and the Victorian Bar.
The scheme enables members of the Bar with experience or an interest in coronial matters to register their preparedness to accept pro bono referrals from the Court to assist in providing urgent advice to Victorians at an incredibly difficult and vulnerable time in their lives. The Court has produced a Guide for the scheme that provides members with information and resources, including links to the relevant legislative provisions and leading cases.
The scheme is a fine example of collaboration between Bench and Bar. My thanks and congratulations go to all involved, including Richard Wilson, Meredith Schilling and other members of the Bar’s Pro Bono Committee, the Coroners and staff of the Coroners Court of Victoria, led by Coroner Simon McGregor, and the hard-working staff in the Bar Office.
Picture (L-R): Dr Matt Collins AM QC, Coroner Darren Bracken, Meredith Schilling, Coroner Simon McGregor and Richard Wilson
On the road from Ballarat
In the wake of the success of the SGM, I took a bit of a road trip yesterday to Ballarat to sub for Senior Vice-President Wendy Harris QC at a leaders’ lunch hosted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD). The event was a chance to connect with regional directors and board members and highlight the central role they play in good decision-making and holding management to account.
My talk discussed the implications of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, with a focus on the intersection between governance and culture. I was joined by Marnie Baker, the Managing Director of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, who shared her experience as the manager of a financial services institution while her industry was in the spotlight of the Hayne Royal Commission.
The senior leadership of the Bar frequently participates in events of these kinds, which is about raising the profile, and showcasing the expertise, of the Victorian Bar. We want all members of the community to look to the Bar when they need a trusted legal adviser, and to think of the Bar as we do—as a centre for unrivalled legal excellence.
Next week Bar Council member Katherine Brazenor will represent the Bar at a similar event for the AICD in Albury Wodonga.
These charities need your support this EOFY
A reminder to please consider an end of financial year donation to one the three Bar charities that rely on your support.
By now you will have received your members’ annual Bar Subscription packs, which include letters respectfully asking for donations to one of the charities below. They are listed below for your reference. More information can be found in the notice below.
Building and Construction Practitioners – call for EoIs
EoIs are sought from members interested in assisting the County Court of Victoria in forming a Building Cases List Users’ Group.
His Honour Judge Woodward, who has been appointed Chair of the list, has requested that the Bar nominate up to four barristers with experience in building and construction disputes (including in the County Court) to represent the Bar at an initial meeting.
Please forward your expression of interest to Denise Bennett at email@example.com. The closing date for EoIs is Friday 21 June 2019 at 5pm.
A busy week
As well as the SGM and AICD event in Ballarat, this week I also attended a quarterly meeting between the Bar and the Law Institute of Victoria.
Behind the scenes, I attended the two meetings of the Chief Justice’s preliminary evaluation committee for 2019 to evaluate applications for silk, chaired a meeting of the media law section of CommBar, and hosted a meeting of the Bar Council’s diversity and inclusion working group.