Supreme Court Pro Bono agreement
This week, the Supreme Court and the Bar signed a new protocol for court referrals in pro bono matters.
The Bar operates two pro bono schemes in addition, of course, to the vast array of informal pro bono work which is done by individual members apart from the formal schemes.
Requests for assistance from members of the public are assessed and managed by JusticeConnect, who contact members who have volunteered for pro bono work.
Requests are also made from time to time by courts where pro bono assistance from a barrister will assist the administration of justice. Those requests are administered by the Bar.
The members’ page for pro bono work has been updated recently, with more information on how you can contribute your skills and time.
The Bar has been moving towards formalising our arrangements with courts so that requests will be made by court order. This gives members the assurance that requests have been appropriately assessed and are limited in scope (so a member does not, for example, volunteer to give advice to a witness on the privilege against self-incrimination and find themselves ending up unexpectedly in a two-week trial).
The Supreme Court Protocol follows the general design of the County Court and Coroners Court schemes, which are both running well—the County Court scheme recently underwent its one-year review, with extremely positive results.
The Federal Court of Australia administers its own referrals by direct approach to individual Victorian Bar members.
I congratulate Pro Bono Committee Chair Richard Wilson, Deputy Chair Meredith Schilling and members Claire Harris QC, Michael Rivette and Donald Farrands for their work on the Supreme Court Protocol, and the Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice, for the collaborative way in which they have engaged with the Bar to bring this important initiative to fruition.
2019 Women in Law Awards
Congratulations to four Victorian barristers who are finalists in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards.
Nicki Mollard has been nominated in the Academic of the Year category. Sharon Kermath and Fiona McLeod SC have been nominated in the Barrister of the Year category. Laura Keily has been nominated in the Innovator of the Year category for Immediation.
The awards will be announced at the Hyatt on 22 November.
Last night, with many of our colleagues, I attended the world premiere of Anthem, an extraordinary new play by renowned Australian playwrights and authors, Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Irene Vela, Christos Tsiolkas and Patricia Cornelius, one of the headline acts for the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts.
The Barristers’ Consortium—a group of members who believe in the transformative power of the arts, are proud, through their philanthropy, to have enabled the Festival to present Anthem. In so doing, we demonstrate that our connection and contribution to the community extends beyond our day jobs.
Anthem explores what it means to be Australian in the 21st century, at a time of social dislocation and multicultural tensions in a city bursting at the seams. It is destined, I think, to become a modern Australian classic. There are further performances through to Sunday 6 October. Tickets are available here.
Artificial intelligence and the rise of the machines
On Tuesday evening, I attended the Sir George Turner Lecture at Melbourne Law School, at which Professor Emeritus Adrian Zuckerman spoke about the implications for the legal profession, the rule of law and the adversarial process of artificial intelligence.
There is no doubt that the disruption to traditional legal practice that we have all experienced in our professional lives will continue to accelerate, with some visions of the future imagining judges and lawyers eventually being replaced by artificially intelligent machines. Artificial intelligence has already transformed the way in which discovery is undertaken in large commercial litigation, and is increasingly a means by which members of the public obtain legal information and advice. With challenges, however, come opportunities—machines, at the end of the day, at least in the foreseeable future, are only as good as their programmers and the data available to them. As lawyers, we will need to learn how to interrogate machine learning and decision making in order to advise our clients and make submissions.
I commend the lecture to everyone. A video will shortly be available from the Melbourne Law School website.
Law…What is it Good For?
I found myself unfortunately jammed on Wednesday evening, and so missed the launch of the Victoria Law Foundation’s first research report, Law…What is it Good For? but I have since read this very impressive piece of research, which measured the community’s perceptions of the law and the justice system.
The research, based on a survey of 1,846 Australian adults, found that demography and exposure to the law are key to a person’s understanding and appreciation of the role played by the law, lawyers and courts. The report challenges our notions of justice being equally accessible to everyone in the community.
AGMs for the Victorian Bar and Barristers’ Benevolent Association
The AGMs for the Victorian Bar Inc and the Barristers’ Benevolent Association of Victoria (BBAV) will be held on Monday 28 October 2019 at 4.30pm. The BBAV AGM agenda includes a proposed modernisation and restructure, which is the product of many months work led by Sam Hay, the Victorian Bar’s indefatigable Treasurer.
More details on the website and in the notice below, including proxy forms and an explanatory memorandum on the BBAV restructure.
Bar Council election – election timetable published
The timetable for the 2019 Bar Council Election has been published to our website and in the notices section below. Nominations open on Monday 14 October. Members who are eligible to nominate and vote will receive an email on Monday 14 October with information on how to nominate, but you are welcome to start thinking about it sooner.
If you are considering nominating, please don’t hesitate to contact me, or any of my Bar Council colleagues to discuss the work we do, so you can consider how you can contribute your sills, abilities and interests to give back to the Bar.
A busy week
Apart from the various events covered above, I represented the Bar yesterday at the welcome for Judge Rosemary Carlin at the County Court – my speech can be found here.
Behind the scenes, I had my regular catch-up with the CEO on Monday, and with the State Attorney-General on Wednesday. There was a Bar Council Executive meeting yesterday morning, ahead of next week’s full meeting of the Bar Council.