Helping lawyers swim between the flags
From regulatory approaches, through ethical pressures, to harassment in the profession and helping the lawyers face the competitive and perfectionist pressures we’re under: the LIV’s “State of the Profession: Essential Briefing 2020” brought together members from across the legal sector to raise and debate the macro issues affecting the profession, allowing us the opportunity stop, reflect and consider what our focus should be in 2020.
Speakers included The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, Victorian Attorney-General and Minister for Workplace Safety; the Hon. Chief Justice Alstergren, Chief Justice, Family Court of Australia and Chief Judge, Federal Circuit Court; Sam Pandya, President of the Law Institute of Victoria and a number of law firm managing partners. The discussion – both during the formal sessions and the networking opportunities – was stimulating and left those in the room with plenty of food for thought as we embark on the new year in earnest.
“We are leaders – we must be visionaries”
Last week, I attended a ceremonial sitting of the High Court marking the appointment of new Senior Counsel, including fifteen of our new silks. The speech at the gala dinner which followed by Shane Drumgold SC, ACT Director of Public Prosecutions and newly appointed Senior Counsel, was a true highlight of the day. Shane took us on a personal journey from his own humble beginnings on “Struggle Street” in Mt Druitt to the rarefied air in which we all found ourselves sitting in the soaring surrounds of our apex court. Along the way, he reminded us that integrity, honesty, independence and humility are the key virtues of Senior Counsel, urging us to “build a profession that not only embraces but celebrates diversity in all its forms. A profession that prides itself on its ability to not just represent the disadvantaged and socially marginalised, but one that builds bridges for their inclusion within the profession itself.” It was a wonderful and moving speech which was rewarded with a standing ovation by those present. You can read Shane’s speech here.
Photograph of members of the Victorian Bar who attended the High Court ceremony to mark the appointment of new senior counsel
More amazing stories of bushfire assistance
As the weeks have passed, I’ve continued to hear some remarkable stories of the contribution that many of our members have made in the bushfire response – fighting the fires, assisting in response and recovery efforts, volunteering time for pro bono help, and giving money to recovery efforts.
Douglas Laidlaw CSC is one of our members who has helped enormously in the bushfire response. Douglas is a Brigadier in the ADF Reserve and, at the beginning of the year, commanded the Joint Taskforce that responded to the bushfires in East Gippsland, including evacuating people trapped in Mallacoota. You can watch a video here of Douglas telling the media about the evacuation. In the 2006 Australia Day Honours, Douglas was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) for service in Malaysia during the 2005 Tsunami and he is one of a large number of our members who has served the community through their participation in the Army Reserve. I’d like to acknowledge and thank them for their service on behalf of the Victorian Bar and all of its members.
The bushfire season has not yet finished, and we can anticipate a lengthy period of reflection, investigation and, inevitably, litigation to follow. While the link between climate change and the bushfires is being hotly debated in the media, the potential for climate change litigation is extremely topical and was the subject of a recent speech by the former Chief Justice of the High Court, the Honourable Robert French AC. At a lecture at the University of Western Australia to raise funds for bushfire relief through the Australian Red Cross, he described some of the risks, and the potential for climate change litigation to influence public policy and the private sector. The former Chief Justice’s speech is available at this link.
Please continue your efforts to support those who need help and also be mindful of your own wellbeing. If you are affected by the fires or any other incident, the Bar’s crisis support and counselling services are available to you and your family.